The 2020 census matters, and there’s still time to be counted

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The 2020 census matters, and there’s still time to be counted

Washington communities deserve fair representation, federal funding, and good data

By - September 18, 2020

Data collection for the 2020 Census is set to close on September 30 – one month earlier than previously planned. It’s critically important that everyone be counted in these final days. The results of the 2020 Census will inform the distribution of $1.5 trillion in federal funding for health care, education, and other vital services; determine who gets how much political power in Congress and at the state level; and provide population data that will shape policy decision-making for the next decade.

Last month, the Trump administration abruptly shortened the census data collection, moving the deadline from October 31 to September 30. This comes on top of challenges that COVID-19 has presented in getting an accurate count, including the disruption of door-to-door canvassing. And it’s the latest in a series of Trump administration efforts to undermine accurate data collection and target immigrants and Black and brown communities for exclusion from the census. These efforts have included a proposed citizenship question and a push to exclude undocumented people from the reapportionment process (by which Congressional seats are divided among states) – both intended to scare immigrants away from responding to the census and strip them of political power.

Blue circle with text that says "Make 2020 Census Count!"Shortening the census response period makes it even harder to count traditionally undercounted communities, like people of color, LGBTQ people, children, renters, people experiencing homelessness, people with disabilities, and people living in rural communities.1 These communities already face the greatest barriers to health and well-being due to structural and institutional racism and growing economic inequality, and they have been hardest hit by the harms of COVID-19. If they are less accurately represented in the census, they will also see less funding for critical services like Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, Head Start, public transportation, and more. And the quality of the data itself – on which policymakers, advocates, and many others rely – will be compromised.

An undercount in Washington could cost our state up to $5.8 million for every 100 households missed.2 The incredible mobilization and innovative outreach efforts of the Washington Census Alliance and other community groups – paired with robust state budget investments to get out the count – have improved the state’s response rate and landed Washington among the best response rates in the country. But our count isn’t yet complete – and there are still a few days left to be counted. Don’t miss the chance.

[1] Certain communities are “hard to count” for a variety of reasons, including that it is more difficult to contact people who live in remote areas, do not have a permanent address, or lack access to the internet. Some groups — like people with limited English proficiency — face barriers to accessing information about the census, and can also be harder for census takers to interview. Others may be fearful of how their information will be used by the government, and may be reluctant to respond. For more see: https://www.gao.gov/assets/700/693450.pdf

[2] Washington State Office of Financial Management

About Liz Olson, Senior Policy Analyst

Liz is on the research and policy team, where she focuses on basic needs, early learning, and related social policy. She joined our organization in this role following her two-year fellowship with us through the State Priorities Partnership – a national network of state fiscal policy organizations coordinated by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Read more about Liz