Census 2020: What You Need to Know

On Wednesday, December 4, the Coalition on Human Needs hosted the Service Providers and the 2020 Census: What You Need to Know webinar with leaders of the national Count All Kids Campaign, the Census Counts Campaign, and local service provider.

The Census is essential for the disbursement of federal funds, which means the accuracy of the 2020 count is critical. Every child, individual, and community must be counted. Webinar speakers included Beth Lynk, Director of Census Counts at the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Deborah Stein, Network Director for Partnership for America’s Children, and Lindsay March, the National Community Action Partnership’s Census Director.

Why is the Census important? The Census counts everyone in the United States despite citizenship status or income status. State and community leaders use this data to create bus routes, businesses use Census data to decide where to open factories and office buildings, and the 2020 Census will determine how the $1.5 trillion are spent on resources like infrastructure needs. Census data determines how funding is distributed for children’s free and reduced lunch and Head Start programs.

Challenges being faced when conducting the 2020 Census count include:

• Hard to count groups face systemic under-counts. These groups include people of color, low-income households, young children ages 0-4, limited English Proficient households, Single-parent households, and Renters.
• Trust in government is low; It is important to remember that Census data is the most protected of all federal data. Census data is not shared with any other federal agency. The punishment for disclosing Census data is up to five years in jail and a fine of 250,000 dollars. Disclosing this private information is a federal crime.
• Despite many rumors, there will not be a citizenship question on the 2020 Census. This is vital information to get out to people in order to get the most accurate count possible.

Young children were by far the highest net undercount group in the 2010 Census, meaning they were missed more than any other age group. Black and Hispanic children are twice as likely to be missed than any other group. Even when adults are counted, children continue to be missed. When surveyed, 1 in 5 parents would not include their young children. Many parents surveyed did not understand why the count of young children is important because the children do not work or pay taxes. Many children get missed because they live with grandparents, aunts, or uncles or split time between two households.

It is important to remind everyone that counting all children is essential for school funding, child care, and other services that children need, and federal funding for local government plans. Census data determine where the $800 billion a year in federal funding goes for medical services, low-income housing, public transit, and more. Correct messaging is key to get an accurate count in 2020. If you are interested in hosting an information or training session at your workplace, the CountAllKids coalition has printable tools and resources available for use on their website: https://countallkids.org/resources/

About the Author:

John Sciamanna is CWLA's Vice President of Public Policy.

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