Be seen, be heard, be counted. That’s the message that a new PSA featuring Janelle Monaé is sending to everyone living in the United States and its territories on Census Day. The star-studded video developed by Michelle Obama’s voting initiative, When We All Vote, and news media company ATTN: gets to the meat of why participating in the decennial survey is so important.

Every 10 years, U.S. residents essentially tell the government how to allocate money to critical matters like health care, public schools, federal programs, and improving neighborhoods. And where that money goes depends on the responses that the government receives. An inaccurate count or what is known as an undercount could lead to reduced funding and resources for the very communities that need them the most. 

According to the Urban Institute, and countless other studies and reports, the Census has historically undercounted the Black population even though Black neighborhoods, in particular, can not afford to let that happen. That ranges from a 4 percent undercount in 1990 to a roughly 2 percent undercount in both 2000 and 2010. In 2020, it’s important to counter past errors with a simple action. 

Monaé points out in the short PSA that $650 billion is at stake. But beyond that, congressional seats and Electoral College votes are also at stake. In an op-ed for ESSENCE, Kristen Clarke, the President and Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law explains that the Census “will also shape the distribution of political power for the next ten years. The Census count is used to guide the redistricting process at every level across the country. It’s about congressional seats, state legislatures, school boards, city councils and electoral college votes. And without everyone’s participation, we won’t get a fair count.”

Protest of citizenship question on U.S. census
Demonstrators rally at the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC, on April 23, 2019, to protest a proposal to add a citizenship question in the 2020 Census. – In March 2018, US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross announced he was going to reintroduce for the 2020 census a question on citizenship abandoned more than 60 years ago. The decision sparked an uproar among Democrats and defenders of migrants — who have come under repeated attack from an administration that has made clamping down on illegal migration a hallmark as President Donald Trump seeks re-election in 2020. (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

In early March, American households started receiving information on how to respond to the 2020 Census that asks simple questions like race/ethnicity, how many people reside in your home, and the ages of those individuals. It does not include a citizenship question. Tuesday, April 1 marks the day that all homes will have received that information, and the day that all residents are requested to complete the questionnaire. Everyone currently residing in the United States should respond to the government-issued form by returning it in the mail, by calling 844-330-2020 or filling it out online (at my2020census.gov). Understand — this is not a drill.

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