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Census 2020: The Basics, Who’s Hard to Count and How Nonprofits Can Get Involved

Once a decade, the U.S. Census Bureau launches a sweeping effort to count everyone in America’s diverse and growing population once, only once and in the right place.  The census provides the basis for reapportioning Congressional seats, redistricting, and distributing $675 billion in federal funding to support state, county, and vital local community programs.

Data from the census informs where we build new businesses, how crowded classrooms will be, and even how much federal funding our community will receive to pay for programs such as WIC and SNAP.     Additionally, census data is used for attracting new businesses to states and local areas, planning for hospitals and other health services, and designing public safety strategies – all critical to the economic growth of Virginia. It is estimated that Virginia will lose up to $2,000 annually for each person not counted in the 2020 Census – amounting upwards of $20,000 per person over a 10-year period.

Source: Voices for Virginia’s Children

What’s the Timeline for the 2020 Census?

Most households will receive a mailing in March 2020 with options for self-response, such as completing the census online, calling the Census Bureau to complete the form via phone or requesting a form in the mail.  There are special efforts underway by the Census Bureau to count people experiencing homelessness and people living in group quarters such as nursing homes, student dormitories, and prisons.

Source: Voices for Virginia’s Children

Who is Hard-to-Count?

Even though it is federally mandated that each household fill out the form, certain populations are often missed for various reasons.  The following persons, many of whom are served or engaged by nonprofits, are at risk of being undercounted in the 2020 census. The Census Bureau considers these groups hard-to-locate; hard-to-contact; hard-to-persuade; and/or hard-to-interview:

  • Complex households including those with blended families, multi-generations, or non-relatives
  • Cultural and linguistic minorities
  • Displaced persons affected by a disaster
  • Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer/questioning persons
  • Low-income persons
  • Persons experiencing homelessness
  • Persons less likely to use the Internet and others without Internet access
  • Persons residing in rural or geographically isolated areas
  • Persons who do not live in traditional housing
  • Persons who do not speak English fluently (or have limited English proficiency)
  • Persons who have distrust in the government
  • Persons with mental and/or physical disabilities
  • Persons without a high school diploma
  • Racial and ethnic minorities
  • Renters
  • Undocumented immigrants (or recent immigrants)
  • Young children
  • Young, mobile persons

According to Voices for Virginia’s Children – Virginia’s only independent, multi-issue child policy and advocacy organization – children under five are missed more often than any other group. In 2010, two million young children weren’t counted.  On their Count All Kids website, the organization shares that “when we miss young children in the census, it has serious consequences for them, their families, their communities and our nation – with many of those consequences lasting for at least 10 years.”

Nonprofits can play a crucial role in making sure the communities they serve are properly represented by “getting out the count” and reaching these traditionally undercounted communities, leading to equal political representation and proportional allocation of private and public resources.


Join Us to Learn More

The Community Foundation for a greater Richmond has teamed up with Voices for Virginia’s Children to offer a convening and learning opportunity where we will learn why the census matters, which people/groups/populations are most likely to be missed and why, what the barriers are to getting a complete count, and how to overcome these obstacles.

Attendees will be able to:

  • talk to representatives of other hard-to-count populations
  • engage with Commissioners of the Governor’s Complete Count Commission
  • discuss questions with a U.S. Census Bureau representative
  • get early access to newly released messaging research
  • get a sneak peek of the 2020 Census form
  • leave with resources to take action!

Join us on October 9th from 3:00 pm to 4:30 pm at the Community Foundation Office at 3409 Moore St.  The event is free and open to all, but registration is required.

Register here.

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