An Echo Press Editorial: Don't forget to fill out census
By the Echo Press Editorial Board
As people stay at home as we ride out the coronavirus pandemic, here’s a productive use of time: Fill out your census.
Mailings of the census started to go out a few weeks ago It contained detailed information about how to respond to the 2020 Census online, by phone or by mail. April 1 was Census Day, a key reference date for the census, not a deadline.
The U.S. Census Bureau uses that day to determine who is counted and where. When you respond, you’ll by telling the Census Bureau where you lived as of April 2020 and include everyone who usually lives and sleeps in your home.
The Census Bureau encourages people to respond to the census as soon as they can.
This isn’t just paperwork or a way for the government to get information about you. The census count has long-term impacts at the local, state and federal levels.
Data collected by the census is used to redraw legislative districts and reallocate seats across states in the U.S. House of Representatives. Based on projections, the state of Minnesota is on the cusp of losing a House seat, according to Janna Johnson, an economic demographer and a member of a U.S. Census Bureau advisory committee.
The census is also helpful for businesses as they can use the information to determine where to open a new branch or focus their marketing, Johnson said.
A new wrinkle for this year’s census is that people can fill out census forms online at my2020census.gov – a safe option is this time of social distancing. The deadline is Aug. 14.
However, if someone doesn’t have access to the internet or prefers to fill it out in other ways, they can still respond by phone or through the mail, Johnson said. Census takers will also go door-to-door to ensure people who haven’t responded do so.
Johnson listed segments of the population that are often undercounted – communities of color, immigrants and young children.
According to the Children’s Defense Fund Minnesota, for every child that isn’t counted in the 2020 Census, the state could lose out on its share of federal funding for programs that support children and their families over the next decade.
“Children are one of the largest groups of undercounted individuals in the census, and the impact of being left out of the count is felt throughout their childhood in the form of missed funding for education, food support, and health care, but also investments in the communities where they live,” said Bharti Wahi, executive director of the organization.
Census figures will determine how the government spends $800 billion in federal funding, and over $15 billion in Minnesota, Wahi noted. The 2010 Census missed more than two million children under 5, costing states $550 million per year in lost federal funding for dozens of programs, including the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), Medicaid, foster care, adoption and child care services.
On average, schools lost $1,695 per year for every school-aged child missed. The number of young children missed could double in 2020, according to the Partnership for America’s Children.
The 2020 Census is off to a good start in Minnesota with about 54 percent of residents responding by phone, mail or online as of April 4. Douglas County’s response lags behind that, at 45 percent. We can do better. Fill out your census.