Reminders to respond to the 2020 Census are all around us. Television ads, radio spots and mail invitations from the Census Bureau emphasize how important it is to take a few minutes to respond. Despite these reminders, the national response rate as of May 25, 2020, was just above 60%. It is understandable that the public health emergency is impacting how many people are responding, since door-to-door follow-up is delayed in order to comply with stay-at-home orders and CDC guidelines. However, I urge everyone to not let present day struggles and challenges adversely impact our communities for the next decade.
It is the present-day challenges that bring home how important it is that every household participate in the 2020 Census. Federal COVID-19 relief funds for state and local uses are most often allocated based on census population data. People who did not participate in the 2010 census, are not included in that data, and could have caused millions, if not billions, in federal dollars to not reach their schools, hospitals, emergency services, hunger programs and more. When everyone does not participate in the decennial census, including racial and ethnic minorities, vulnerable communities suffer for years, especially during times of health and economic crises.
We cannot let a novel coronavirus rob a generation of Americans of much needed resources, opportunities and support. The pandemic cast a spotlight on the continuing and growing disparities in healthcare, education, and employment in communities of color. An accurate census count in 2010 would have helped reduce some of those disparities now, as emergency funds are distributed to local governments, hospitals and school districts. The 2020 Census data will shape formulas developed during the next 10 years for distribution of federal dollars to benefit students, healthcare for seniors and the poor, job training programs and spur economic growth in neighborhoods.
With African Americans disproportionately infected with, and dying from, the coronavirus, access to appropriate treatment is important now. But the 2020 Census data can help secure federal support of preventive medicine for seniors and the underserved until 2030. Ready access to preventive treatment would most likely have reduced the preexisting conditions making many African Americans more susceptible to the coronavirus and the most grievous impact of the disease.
Students are also being further disadvantaged with the need for schools to move from the classroom to the internet. Distance learning requires broadband or other adequate internet access and the equipment to fully engage in learning and teaching. Federal emergency support for students and schools is most often based on past census data. Information collected through the 2020 Census will inform formulas to distribute funds to school districts and schools to meet and enhance learning needs for all students, especially those without equitable resources. Responding will ensure that the 30-40 percent of students of the Cleveland Municipal Schools in my congressional district, and others around the country, will be able to fully participate in online learning.
Your participation in the 2020 Census will also ensure that federal dollars that improved neighborhoods and communities will be available to those areas that need them most. The data will impact funding for public transportation, road and bridge projects, housing, community development, displaced worker and vocational training, adult education, preschool and special education programs, school lunches – and the list goes on.
As our communities work hard to recover during what may be years of novel coronavirus aftermath, they will need help. The quantity and level of federal help to meet those needs will depend on the data collected from the 2020 Census. If we don’t all respond, the data will be incomplete, and future funding will be insufficient. We will all be the losers.
Our 2020 Census responses can make a difference for everyone we know. They will also ensure that everyone’s voice is represented in state and federal legislatures, when new districts are drawn in 2021. Silence now can result in representation that will not give voice to your issues through 2030.
Complete the census today and encourage your family and friends to do the same by visiting my2020census.gov or calling 844-330-2020. Be counted and help shape the future of our communities.