Denver, Colorado — Today, March 25, 2020, state legislators and national advocates addressed the unprecedented challenge that the COVID-19 pandemic poses for a fair and accurate census count. In addition, legislators discussed the intentional politicization and underfunding of the census by the Trump administration and conservative state legislatures that have created the perfect storm to be exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Access the video of the call here and audio here.
“As we face the most threatening pandemic in this century, it is perhaps more important than ever to ensure the 2020 Census is fair and accurate,” said State Innovation Exchange (SiX) Senior Research Associate, Sunila Chilukuri. “A complete census count means communities will receive the federal and state resources they need and deserve for the next decade, including funding for vital services like hospitals and first responders. Although the status of public stimulus funds remains uncertain, any future federal or state allocation is likely to based on population data. The census also helps ensure that elected officials making critical decisions at times like these truly represent their communities and that political power is fairly distributed across the nation.”
Data released earlier this month by NALEO Education Fund confirms that misinformation about the census is prevalent—almost half of Latino respondents still thought the citizenship question would be asked. Additionally, NALEO’s survey results show 75 percent of respondents believe that the Trump administration will use census information against immigrants and Latinos.
“NALEO Educational Fund believes a strong democracy is necessary for a nation to meet serious challenges, and the Census is the foundation of our democracy. Our organization remains firmly committed to doing our part to ensure a full and accurate count of Latinos and all populations in the country,” said NALEO Educational Fund CEO Arturo Vargas. “Census data are critical to ensuring our communities receive the resources needed to support health care, education, and nutrition programs. Given the current COVID-19 climate, we can all appreciate how important these services are to our community.”
“I represent the Miami area, which is home to many documented and undocumented Latinos. I understand their fears in this political climate and the confusion,” said Florida Representative Javier Fernández. “The failed attempt by the Trump administration to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census was designed to create confusion and fear, which would result in a population undercount and fewer financial resources and less political power for our communities. These political games are reprehensible.”
Concerns around the U.S. Census Bureau’s preparation and funding for the 2020 Census have been widely reported. It is estimated that the 2010 census undercounted the Hispanic population by 1.5%. The changes in the 2020 Census, including a reduced budget and scaled back filed operation to reach hard-to-count populations, raise concerns about another undercount.
Latino and Latina state legislators across the country have been on the front lines tackling these evolving challenges to ensure that everyone in their state is counted in the 2020 Census. Some of these state legislators were able to secure funding to support a fair and accurate count.
“The federal funding and Congressional seats will go somewhere, so undercounting in Colorado means that we lose these federal funds and votes to another state. In fact, just a ‘small’ 1 percent undercount in the 2010 Census would have lost the state over $630 million over the entire decade. This is why Colorado passed the bipartisan bill HB19-1239 and established the Census Outreach Grant Program,” said Colorado Representative Yadira Caraveo.
“In order for Colorado to receive its fair share, the Census Bureau must master the difficult task of accurately counting the state’s dynamic, diverse population. That is why we invested $6 million in census outreach funding last year so that every Coloradan counts. This is half of the $12 million recommended to truly reach the 1.5 million Coloradans deemed hard-to-count,” said Colorado Representative Kerry Tipper. “Colorado is home to disproportionate shares of populations that are most frequently undercounted, including highly-mobile residents, Latinos, and Native Americans.”
Many conservative state legislatures refused to pass legislation to allocate funds to enhance efforts in hard-to-count communities. With billions of dollars at risk over the next decade, in those states, individual state legislators have taken action to partner in communities with organizations.
“To combat misinformation and misperceptions surrounding the census, I’ve been working with the Paso Del Norte Complete Count Committee to make sure everyone is counted via a grassroots effort, as well as in conjunction with Texas news stations to release census PSAs to ensure we get all of the federal funding and resources we need,” said Texas Representative César Blanco.
“I would just underscore that, especially in Arizona which originated SB1070, the ‘show me your papers’ law, there is a fundamental distrust of government in many segments of the Latino community,” said Arizona Representative Raquel Terán. “If a growing state like Arizona doesn’t get an accurate count, then we will be leaving hundreds of millions of federal dollars for infrastructure and social services on the table…I will use all tools I can as a legislator to ensure people in LD 30 and all Arizona are counted.”
The U.S. Census Bureau announced it was suspending field operations until at least April 1. However, everyone can still fill out their census online, over the phone or by mail.