If the COVID-19 public health and economic crises have clarified anything, it’s that accurate and current demographic data is vital to show which communities are most impacted to ensure fair allocation of federal resources. It’s more important now than ever to self-respond to both the 2020 Census and the Census Bureau’s targeted Household Pulse Survey.
The census is a count of every person in the country – including residents of all races and ethnicities (regardless of immigration status), children, seniors, and people experiencing homelessness. It is conducted by the US Census Bureau, a nonpartisan government agency similar to the US Postal Service. This agency is bound by law to protect your answers, keep every single answer confidential, and only use census data for statistics.
The census timeline has shifted in response to the pandemic and will now end on October 31, 2020. You may respond easily from your own home online, over the phone, or by mail. Starting today, July 1, census takers will help ensure an accurate count by interviewing facilities that house large groups such as colleges and senior centers – and starting August 11, they will reach out to individual homes that haven’t responded yet. Taking just 10 minutes to respond to the census will continue to shape the country – and distribution of federal resources – for the next 10 years.
Be counted for your community
Taking part in the census is a way you can exercise your political power and increase equity in our country. Census information is a critical component of how the government allocates funds for things like the number of hospital beds available and safety net programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
Census data also helps determine public transportation routes, where to build new homes and improve neighborhoods, and where to build businesses to create new jobs. And the results determine how many seats in Congress each state gets, thus affecting the number of electoral college votes, which can influence the outcome of future elections.
As we grapple with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re reminded how important it is to understand the needs of those within our community. Census statistics are a critical way for the government to know what resources our community may need in urgent times. Organizations like Solid Ground often rely on federal funding to provide services that directly tackle the hardships brought on by the pandemic.
Be counted for racial justice & equity
Hard-to-reach communities are most at risk of being undercounted, which ultimately results in less funding for community programs aimed to help them. Unfortunately, this includes marginalized populations such as Black, Indigenous, and other people of color, people experiencing homelessness, and people with limited English.
In 2010, 2.1% of the Black population, 1.5% of the Hispanic population, and 4.9% of the American Indian and Alaska Native population were undercounted nationally – meaning hundreds of thousands of people were made invisible by not being counted. These same communities are also disproportionately impacted by the pandemic both in poorer health outcomes and being harder hit economically.
“Being counted in the 2020 Census directly impacts and is as important as preserving and restoring the Voting Rights Act, reversing gerrymandering, protecting a person’s right to choose, and ending mass incarceration and the school-to-prison pipeline.” ~Black Lives Matter Seattle King County
Black Lives Matter Seattle King County’s (BLMSKC) Demand to be Counted 2020 campaign stresses the importance of being counted specifically for Black and Brown communities who have historically been subjugated by the federal government. Undercounting erases community members’ lived experiences and reduces funding where resources are needed most. While Black and Brown communities are rightfully distrustful of the government and the census due to centuries of systemic racism, being counted is a way of fighting back as it ensures that you are recognized and not erased.
BLMSKC states, “The census itself is deeply flawed. Arguably, it is not the best way to determine an accurate count. For 2020, these flaws are compounded by the ongoing attempts to meddle with the census to target Black and Brown people of all identities and circumstances: immigrants, formerly incarcerated, LGBTQ+, and our kids – especially those who are under 5 years old. … Being counted in the 2020 Census directly impacts and is as important as preserving and restoring the Voting Rights Act, reversing gerrymandering, protecting a person’s right to choose, and ending mass incarceration and the school-to-prison pipeline.”
Be counted if you need safe, stable housing
If you are experiencing homelessness, your participation is still incredibly important. Between September 22-24, census takers will count people at shelters, soup kitchens, regularly scheduled mobile food vans, and locations where people are known to stay such as transit stations. This will help reduce factors for low response such as not having a mailing address. Census statistics are crucial to programs and service providers that support people experiencing homelessness and will help programs provide better services and improved shelter options.
Make sure your kids are counted, too
“Think of it this way: What happened to a 5-year-old, 10 years ago, who was not counted? Ten years without representation. Kids who didn’t get what they needed for 10 years. The impact of the undercount is huge.” ~Elsa Barres-Boni, 2020 Census Advisor for City of Seattle
Additionally, children younger than 5 are at risk of being undercounted, with Black and other children of color at even higher risk. Elsa Barres-Boni, 2020 Census Advisor for City of Seattle states, “Think of it this way: What happened to a 5-year-old, 10 years ago, who was not counted? Ten years without representation. Kids who didn’t get what they needed for 10 years. The impact of the undercount is huge.”
It is exceptionally important to include all children in your household when filling out census forms as it impacts services aimed to serve them such as the National School Lunch program.
Household Pulse Survey takes a snapshot of pandemic impacts
Lastly, the federal government is conducting a Household Pulse Survey to learn more about the social and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on our communities. The survey asks about how jobs, finances, access to food, health, housing, and schooling have been affected by the ongoing crisis to help federal and state officials send aid directly to those most affected by the pandemic.
The Census Bureau has selected a limited number of addresses from across the country randomly to represent the entire population. If you were selected to participate, the Census Bureau randomly chose your address, not you personally. You should receive an email from COVID.firstname.lastname@example.org or a text message from 39242 with a link to complete the survey. Your participation in both this survey and the 2020 Census is important as completing the Household Pulse Survey does not replace your 2020 Census response.
For a more general overview of the census, read our 2020 Census: Be Counted! post – or visit www.2020census.gov which includes resources like the Census 2020 Language Guides in many different languages. You may also call one of these toll-free language lines to be counted and/or ask questions about the census.