According to the Massachusetts Census Equity Fund, the state could lose up to $2,372 in federal funding each year for every person who is not counted.
If there is an undercount in our state and region, we risk losing funding for vital services as well as diminishing our voice in government. Many of the services that will lose funding disproportionately affect those who work lower-wage jobs; need assistance to pay for basic needs like food, rent and childcare; are recent immigrants; have chronic illnesses; or find themselves in a any number of difficult circumstances. Therefore, an undercount in the Census could mean programs whose role is to make things a little more equitable are underfunded.
What are the Challenges in 2020?
There have always been challenges in obtaining and accurate count. However, in 2020 those are compounded by a number of logistical and environmental factors. These include:
- Reaching traditionally hard to count populations: As described above, those who are traditionally hard to count remain so in 2020. If you think this is not an issue in MetroWest, check out this interactive map that shows those in our region at risk for not being counted: https://www.censushardtocountmaps2020.us/.
- First completely digital census: Form will no longer be mailed to homes to complete. Instead, residents will receive a post card with a website address. This could be a significant barrier for those with limited internet access and/or limited digital literacy.
- Insufficient and delayed funding: Funding cuts mean there are not enough census offices in the state and not enough workers to conduct outreach to all “hard to reach” populations.
- Concerns over Confidentiality of Information, particularly among immigrant populations: There is a general fear in many communities about providing information to the federal government, who may share it with other government agencies. There are strict laws in place to protect the confidentiality of information provided to the Census Bureau.
What Can You do to Help?
Many of these challenges may seem overwhelming but working together we can increase the number of our neighbors who are counted. 2020 may seem like the distant future, but given the unique challenges facing this Census, it is essential that we start outreach early. Some things you can do are:
- Offer Materials: The Massachusetts Census Equity Fund has free materials on their website (https://www.masscensusequity.org/) to make available at your agency. You can also encourage those you work with to fill out the Census.
- Reach out for Guidance: The Metrowest Health Foundation, Foundation for Metrowest and the Sudbury Foundation, working through the MA Census Equity Fund, are helping several local nonprofits provide outreach and support to hard-to-reach populations in MetroWest. If you are a nonprofit serving constituents who have a challenging time accessing the census survey, please reach out to one of these agencies for support.