The Importance of the Census During the COVID-19 Outbreak
Encouraging 327.2 million people to carry out even a single task is a seemingly impossible goal––despite being required by law, the challenge of ensuring that everyone in the United States completes the Census every ten years is made difficult by much more than the sheer number of people it must reach. Even with the best of intentions, Americans can be forgetful, busy, and stressed over other parts of their life that demand precedence. There are also those who are less willing, with many undocumented immigrants afraid to provide an official entity with their information out of concern for their families and their livelihoods. It goes without saying that in the most normal of years, reminding and motivating people to fill out their census forms is a herculean effort.
However, 2020 has not been a normal year, and the 2020 Census must overcome a new beast altogether. The spread of COVID-19 has left many in the U.S. with no idea how to pay their rent or afford food, potentially for months to come. Compared with the overwhelming need to survive, Census forms fall much farther down the list of priorities. In spite of the current circumstances, it is essential to encourage people to keep an eye on the future, one where the coronavirus outbreak will eventually come to an end and the 2020 Census results will be critical in determining policy and budget decisions. The funding that is allotted to public benefits and health programs, such as Medicaid and Medicare, directly determines the number of people who may benefit from that funding. In a time where the importance of public health practices cannot be overstated, it is key to demonstrate the link between the health of individuals and the health of the greater community. This means that everyone, including immigrants, need to be accounted for in the 2020 Census to expand access in the future to the health care they need and other public benefits that can support immigrants and their families through difficult times. It may not feel like a priority while a global pandemic spreads throughout the country, but the long-term impact of the data will be felt in the years to come as communities begin to recover from the economic damage of COVID-19.
Today, April 1, is Census Day. The Census collects household information as of this specific day in 2020, a designation which also serves as a reminder of the efforts that must still be made to record the most accurate data possible. Responses are due by mid-May and can be filled out online or by phone in English and twelve other languages, or on paper in English and Spanish. It is important to remember that the responses collected in the Census every ten years cannot be held against anyone by any court or government agency. The data is well-protected, with federal laws strictly limiting the ways that it can be used. It is crucial that everyone makes the decision to be accounted for––in Massachusetts alone, $16 billion, or $2,372 per person, is allocated based on Census data to provide funding for schools, hospitals, roads, affordable housing, and other programs. This data is also key to create fair and equitable political representation in Congress and the state legislature. In other words, filling out the Census form is a great way to make your voice heard and support more investment in your community. Coronavirus may be overshadowing the country now, but the years of recovery can only be made easier through the Census results if everyone is fairly represented. To respond now or find more information, go to: https://2020census.gov.