Our Constitution requires every single person living in the United States to be counted every decade. The resulting data that come from the completion of the Census questionnaire will set the tone for our democracy during the next ten years. Census data guide financial decisions, which impact the livelihoods of all communities including ones that identify as migratory, homeless, or hard-to-count.
Put simply, Census data determine the amount of political representation and federal funding for Washington State. From re-drawing the district lines, to determining the apportionment of seats in the U.S. House of Representative, to distributing more than $800 billion in federal funding across the entire country. Those funds are allocated based on housing, healthcare, schools, highway planning and constructions, and early childhood education needs. Our state expects to receive $16 billion for the next ten years. However, with first-time changes to the Census questionnaire, communities of color anticipate facing critical challenges that pose a severe threat to a full, fair, and accurate Census count:
For the first time in history since 1790, the Internet will serve as the primary response option. Starting as early as March through July 2020, about 80% of households will be receiving an email invitation to complete the Census questionnaire online. Communities that do not have access to the Internet readily or are unfamiliar with technology may not be captured in the Census count.
The Secretary of the Commerce who plays a role in administering the Census made a last-minute decision to add the untested and unnecessary citizenship question to the form. In the 2010 Census, we did not have these challenges and, yet, 1 million children were undercounted of whom 400,000 identified as Hispanics. This staggering undercount cannot occur in 2020.
Every household must complete a questionnaire online or by phone or mail. Households must answer questions based on information as of April 1. For example, the number of people living in one’s household on April 1. There is a different process to count individuals who are homeless or live in hard-to-count areas. Their questionnaires will ask the following: name, age, sex, Hispanic origin, race, tenure (owner/renter), and the relationship to a member of the household.
El Centro de la Raza is in full force preparing for the upcoming Census 2020 count. We are working in strong coalitions with other community-based organizations. Each organization plays a critical role in educating our communities about the challenges of this year’s Census and reminding them to be counted. Every community must be represented in the Census to ensure that every individual receives the resources to which they are entitled. The Census is more than an accurate account of the population. It is ultimately about equality. ¡Háganse Contar!