The Census is when, every ten years, our government counts every person living in the United States, as mandated in the Constitution. This seems simple enough, in theory, but for Delawareans, it is vital to get an accurate count this year and it is much more complex than it sounds.
There are a few key factors that the Census dictates, such as federal and emergency funding to states and local communities, as well as Congressional seats. These are of great importance to our state because in the last census, Delaware underreported the number of people living in the state at the time and thus, missed out on $100M of federal funding over the last 10 years. In an age, where we face an ever-growing opioid epidemic and a disappearing middle class, the reliance on social services is growing exponentially. Federal funds support Delaware assistance programs like Grants for Special Education, National School Lunch Programs, Project-based Sectional 8 Housing Assistance, WIC, Health Center Programs, low-income home energy assistance, Head Start/Early Head Start, Medicaid, Medicare Part B, SNAP, Highway Planning and Construction, among many others.
The Census is also used for Congressional Apportionment. This is the process of dividing the 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives equitably among the 50 states. Currently, Delaware has only one Congressperson in the House of Representatives, Lisa Blunt Rochester. Through our census count, this may, for the first time in history, allow for two U.S. House of Representatives from the state of Delaware.
A third, and little-known, result of an accurate count of the Census is in the event of a widescale disaster. If a head count needs to be taken to ensure the safety of those living in the area, there will be an accurate benchmark for first responders. Additionally, if emergency resources need to be released, the local municipalities will have a good understanding of what is needed to care for the people within that region.
For these reasons, participation in the 2020 Census is crucial to our state. Local nonprofits and faith-based organizations play a key role in communicating to their audiences, some of whom fall within the underreported and skeptical populations, how participation in this year’s Census can positively affect their quality of life.
While the Census seems relatively simple and the case has been made for its importance, the reality is that the Census can be terrifying for some residents of our area, while others just express skepticism about it. Fears and questions around the Census are: will my information be shared with other government entities; will providing my information put my household at risk, and will my immigration status cause me to be deported? This is one of the areas where trusted sources like local nonprofits and faith-based organizations can allay some of these fears and provide a sense of security around participation.
For example, the Census counts people, not necessarily citizens. Therefore, everyone living under one roof, even if it is on a long-term visitation basis, needs to be accounted for as of April 1, 2020. The only individuals that are not counted are individuals visiting from outside the country. For better clarity, those who should be counted include:
• Family members (Local or out-of-state)
• Undocumented and documented immigrants
• College or international students living in your home
• Foster care children
• Children who spilt time between home
• Newborns or babies born on April 1, 2020 (even if they are still in a hospital)
• Individuals in the process of moving, but have not yet moved
With a good understanding of the Census collection process, accurate numbers can be reported and that is a benefit to everyone living in Delaware. DANA is leading an effort to train local nonprofits and faith-based organizations about the Census, what their role is and how they can encourage participation with their communities. If you or your organization would like to get involved, please contact us at 302-777-5500 or [email protected].
Let’s make history with the 2020 Census. We will celebrate our differences, embrace our similarities and rejoice in our development. Together, we will move Delaware forward.
Please note: If your receive a visit to your home, be aware that a census employee will never ask for your social security number, internet password or login, money or donations, anything on behalf of a political party, your financial account numbers or information, nor are they permitted to ask you about your citizenship status.
By: Alice Stevens
DANA Census Community Coordinator