By Robert P. Alvarez
A deadline is looming. Millions of lives, trillions of dollars, and our democracy all hang on whether we show up to meet it.
I don’t mean the election. I mean the census.
Every 10 years, the Census Bureau attempts to count every person living in this country — regardless of location, immigration status, or citizenship. There’s an ongoing legal battle over the deadline, but unless the courts overturn the Trump administration’s decision to move it up, we’ve only got till September 30 to turn in our forms.
If you live here, you need to be counted.
Unfortunately, many of us aren’t. Certain communities — such as rural, Black, Indigenous, Latinx, immigrant, and LGBTQ folks — are especially likely to be undercounted. Some experts warn this year’s census could be the worst undercount of Black and Latinx people in 30 years.
When communities are undercounted, they’re drained of their political representation and their resources. We can’t let that happen.
The more people your state counts, the more seats it gets in Congress. That gives your state — and you — a bigger say in making laws and selecting the president through the Electoral College. If you don’t get counted, you get less say.
The census also determines how the federal government spends about $1.5 trillion every year on programs like food stamps, unemployment, housing assistance, education, infrastructure projects, and Medicare and Medicaid.
During a pandemic and recession, states need every last dime to support these programs. If you’re uncounted, your state gets shortchanged — which could be especially devastating during a pandemic and recession.
Unfortunately, 13 out of the 15 poorest states have a lower response rate now compared to the previous census count in 2010. That means the most vulnerable communities, including those hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, are at risk of losing out on crucial support for recovery efforts.
There are poor counties in Mississippi and Louisiana, for example, where census response rates are as low as 30 percent. In West Virginia, response rates in some counties are hovering at around 23 percent. And in one poor New Mexico county, the response rate is just 18 percent.
Rates are even lower on many tribal lands. At the Jicarilla Apache reservation in New Mexico and the Crow and Northern Cheyenne reservations in Montana, they’re under 15 percent. At the Gila River and Fort Apache reservations in Arizona, and the Red Lake reservation in Minnesota, they’re in the single digits.
An undercount won’t just harm these communities this year or next, but for a full decade into the future.
Please encourage anyone and everyone you know to take the census, especially if you are from a marginalized community. Taking the census will ensure you, your loved ones, and your neighbors get their fair share of federal funding — and representation in our democracy.
You matter. Your presence here matters. As peculiar as it may sound, you could save your life and livelihood, or your neighbor’s, just by filling out your census form.
Let’s ensure all of our communities are represented fairly and funded equitably. Let’s fill out the census.
Robert P. Alvarez is a media relations associate at the Institute for Policy Studies. He lives in Portland.
As a LatinA, PLEASE stop pushing Latinx. We don’t want it. Thank you.
Trailer Bob says
Thank you Red. I was sitting here, reading the article, and I was like….”what the hell? Latina didn’t work well enough?
Immature minds always try to change things that do not need to be changed. What next? are they going to call me Whito? lol
Illegals should not be counted
Save lives, wear a facial covering. Save lives don’t speed. Save lives don’t text & drive. Save lives don’t drink & drive. Save lives, don’t use your mobile phone while driving. Save lives look twice for motorcycles. Save lives don’t riot & loot. Save lives don’t resist law enforcement. Save lives don’t run a red light. Save lives actually STOP at a STOP sign. Save lives cure heart disease, cancer and drug addiction.
CB from PC says
The census is available online.
The Census Bureau has people canvassing house to house.
And I know for a fact they will go back multiple times to a home, and if necessary, insert door notices to obtain census information.
If people choose not to participate by the multiple options available to them, so be it.
The exclusion is voluntary.
Gary R says
Where did you get that the Census is exclusionary? It is the law and it says so on the Census. What Happens If I Don’t Fill Out My Census Form? If you refuse to give out the information or you deliberately give inaccurate information, you can be in legal trouble. According to United States Code, Title 13 (Census), Chapter 7 (Offenses and Penalties), SubChapter II, if you’re over 18 and refuse to answer all or part of the census, you can be fined up to $100. If you give false answers, you’re subject to a fine of up to $500. If you offer suggestions or information with the “intent to cause inaccurate enumeration of population,” you are subject to a fine of up to $1,000, up to a year in prison, or both. https://people.howstuffworks.com/question345.htm