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Census Day: Another way to help

People are stepping up to help their communities in many ways through the COVID-19 crisis. From mutual aid groups to practicing responsible social distancing, Michiganders are doing their part to get through this together.

If you haven’t done so already, taking the census is a small act you can do right now to help your community over the next decade. It only takes a few minutes and can be done from home — online, by phone or by mail.

And today is the perfect day to do it, as April 1 is national Census Day. By this date, every home should have received an invitation to participate in the 2020 Census. And, when you respond to the census, you’ll tell the Census Bureau where you live — and who all is living in your household — as of April 1, 2020.

If people in your community get missed by the census, that means less money for roads, schools, health care services and more. The COVID-19 crisis threatens the 2020 Census, as workers must wait to go door-to-door and many community gathering places, where census events were planned, are closed. We can’t let this crisis lead to an undercount.

The good news is there are more ways than ever before to participate.

Those with internet access can take the census on a smartphone, tablet or computer. According to the Kids Count Data Center, there’s still about one in 10 kids living in homes without internet access in Alpena County. Other estimates state that about a third of all households lack internet access in Alcona, Montmorency, and Presque Isle counties. While taking the census online may not be an option for some, it’s important to remember that people can still fill out the form by phone (844-330-2020) or by paper.

Households that have not participated should receive a form in the mail to complete.

Here’s a snapshot of what’s at stake. In Fiscal Year 2016, federal dollars to Michigan that were determined using census data included:

∫ Over $12 billion in Medicaid;

∫ Over $2 billion in food assistance (SNAP);

∫ Over $1 billion in highway planning and construction;

∫ Over $400 million in special education grants;

∫ Over $300 million in school lunches; and

∫ Millions of dollars more for child care, health centers, Medicare, housing and more.

Additionally, the state and localities will begin receiving federal assistance in response to COVID-19. In crises, census data is used to make crucial decisions about resources and where money is spent. That’s another reason why we need to make sure no one gets missed, including those in hard-to-reach areas, complex households, or those living without homes.

Responses are confidential and only used to produce statistics. Your answers are prohibited from being shared with law enforcement, immigration officials, or landlords.

The Census Bureau is making adjustments to keep workers safe and encourage participation during this challenging time. As of now, you have until Aug. 14 to self-respond to the 2020 Census.

Respond today and don’t forget to count everyone, especially children and babies, living in your household — even if they’re only staying there temporarily. It was estimated that over 10% of children younger than 5 were missed in the 2010 Census. All communities rely on a complete count.

You can take the census online at 2020census.gov. To answer the census over the phone, call 844-330-2020.

Filling out the census is a small service that will have a big impact for the next 10 years. Spread the word this Census Day to self-respond and count everyone: and especially to #CountAllKids!

Parker James is the Kids Count policy analyst at the Michigan League for Public Policy.

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