The Hartford Courant published an op-ed written by Michelle Riordan-Nold about the importance of the 2020 Census for the State of Connecticut. In case you missed it, we’ve published the article below.
“April 1, 2020 might seem like a long time away. But there is work to do before then if Connecticut residents are to be properly counted in the 2020 Census on that date, and there’s a lot riding on it.
Fortunately, there’s also a lot Connecticut residents can do to help.
An under-reported count of residents is more than a math mix-up. It means new obstacles for local governments, businesses and community groups. It means less representation in Congress to advocate and fight for what matters to residents of Connecticut. It means losing federal funding for some of our state’s most important programs.
Each year, Connecticut receives about $8 billion from the federal government for the 16 largest federally funded programs that rely on census data. These programs include Medicaid, special education funding, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. An under-reported count could jeopardize a substantial portion of those funds for an entire decade.
But it’s not only about federal funding. When deciding where to build job-creating factories, offices and stores, businesses depend on census data to conduct market analysis. When planning and preparing for emergencies, local governments depend on census data for public safety and public service needs. When identifying community needs, nonprofit health and human service providers as well as citizen organizations depend on census data to request and fund programs and assess program effectiveness. When assessing or comparing the quality-of-life within communities, residents depend on census data to understand and support advocacy efforts.
Without knowing the makeup of our communities now, it would be impossible to plan for the future.
To make it easier for people to participate in the census, the 230-year-old nationwide count is getting an upgrade; Census 2020 will be the first census that can be filled out online. Households will receive a code in the mail that can be entered online to fill out the form.
But we also need to remember that 16 percent of the population has no internet access. More traditional methods to respond to the census will continue and will continue to matter.
Local officials including Lieutenant Gov.-elect Susan Bysiewicz and Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin have emphasized the importance of counting all residents. At a recent Census event, Mayor Bronin expressed concerns about the possible inclusion of a citizenship question on the census questionnaire. The worry is that such a question would discourage some residents from taking part in the census, even though the law protects the confidentiality of the data. It is illegal to share individually identifiable data.
Counting residents in Connecticut’s cities is difficult enough. For example, during the 2010 Census, 36 of the 40 census tracts in Hartford were deemed “hard to count.” That means that those census tracts had an initial response rate of 73 percent or less. For Connecticut, 22 percent of the population, or approximately 800,000 residents, live in hard-to-count areas – in municipalities large and small.
So the challenges are big. But there are ways to help.
An array of local organizations, as well as the public and private sector, can play pivotal roles in achieving an accurate count. Whether it is a local community center or membership organization that dedicates an afternoon to answering questions about the census and encouraging participation, or a church picnic that concludes with attendees filling out the census form on computers in the church basement, every effort contributes to a more accurate count. Having trusted leaders of the community actively engaged will matter in the months leading to the census and when the count begins.
As the designated Census State Data Center, the Connecticut Data Collaborative will also assist with the communication and outreach efforts across the state. Individuals can start talking with friends, family and colleagues about the census. The Census Bureau will also start filling jobs in the spring, and applications are being accepted online now.
Connecticut has seen slower population growth than other parts of the country, and without a count that includes everyone, we stand to lose not only representation in Congress, but much-needed dollars with wide-ranging impact. That is why planning for Census 2020 needs to begin sooner rather than later – because later could cost us.”