During this pandemic, we’ve seen our communities step up for one another to help flatten the curve. While we continue to practice social distancing, one of the most impactful civic duties that we can all do from the safety of our own homes is to fill out and spread the word about the 2020 Census.
With the next decade of funding and representation on the line, the census is a crucial component to helping our communities rebuild from the effects of the pandemic and prepare for the future.
Many of the essential services our communities rely on, especially in times of crisis, are funded based on the results of the census. To provide a small snapshot, these programs and services include Medicaid, school grants, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and funding for hospitals. Getting an accurate count is not only critical to ensuring that we get a fair allocation of funding, but that we also get a fair share of representation on all levels of government.
In the 2010 Census, Arizona had one of the lowest rates of census participation. This time around, the likely impact of an undercount
is especially high. New data from the Fair Census Project and Civis Analytics estimates that 70,000 residents from Maricopa County will be left out of the 2020 Census, resulting in a potential loss of millions in federal funding that could go towards building the health and wellbeing of the county when it’s needed the most.
Traditionally, Arizona’s high hard-to-count population has led many communities to be overlooked in the decennial census and the overall political process.
One of the groups most at risk of being undercounted is the Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander community. Statistics show that AANHPIs are the least likely to participate in the census, with 38% of the group “not familiar” with the census at all.
Language barriers and privacy concerns also compound to make AANHPIs particularly vulnerable to being miscounted. To combat this, groups like the Arizona AANHPI for Equity Complete Count Committee have spent the last year working to educate AANHPIs in-language, help navigate the process of filling the Census out, and reach out to those who are not normally engaged with.
Because the decennial census is mandated by the U.S. Constitution, it is one of the few events that cannot be postponed. The COVID-19 pandemic has highly impacted local and Census Bureau efforts to reach hard-to-count groups, resulting in a huge loss of momentum and a slowdown of census responses from target groups. With in-person community outreach halted for the time being, groups like my own are getting creative in an effort to reach people virtually, including hosting create-a-thons and Instagram giveaway contests featuring census-branded reusable milk cartons. However, it’s still not enough to ensure that everyone gets counted.
Right now, we need everyone to pitch in. We know that friends and families are the most trusted messengers in our communities, so it’s vital that we all reach out to our networks and help spread the word.
It has never been easier to self-respond to the census. Not only can it be filled out in less than 10 minutes by phone or mail, but this year also marks the first time that the Census can be completed online at my2020census.gov.
Any information provided on the census is safe and required by law to be kept strictly confidential.
Let’s all work to make sure that our communities are able to get the resources and decision-making power it needs to get back on their feet and thrive.
Editor’s note: Jennifer Chau is a census/voter engagement community organizer with the Asian Pacific Community in Action and the chair of the AZ AANHPI for Equity Complete Count Committee.