Census undercount has major ramifications

Small Image
Machelle Sanders

The 2020 Census is well underway, and Census partners are working to find new ways to expand awareness through virtual outreach and engagement amidst an unprecedented public health crisis. Now, more than ever, North Carolinians will need access to the data and many community programs and services that can help facilitate faster recovery from the impacts of COVID-19 – and we need your support.

As of May, almost half of North Carolina’s households still need to be counted and our response rate is in the bottom third in the nation. With more than $1,823 in federal and state funds per person per year returning to our communities using Census data, even a modest undercount of 3 percent has a significant impact for North Carolina:

• $1.8 billion in rural communities

• $400 million for veterans

• $333 million for children under age 5

• $930 million for African American communities

• $545 million for Hispanic/Latino populations

• $50 million for Native Americans

Within your role as leaders who represent the business, nonprofit, education and faith-based sectors, you serve as the local, trusted voices within your organizations and communities. As chair of the NC Complete Count Commission, I ask you join us in ensuring a complete and accurate count by encouraging participation in the 2020 Census. The NC Census website offers educational and outreach materials to share within your networks and organizations. We also encourage other ways to promote census participation:

• Share information on your websites and social media, in newsletters, at virtual meetings and events, in neighborhood apps or online groups.

• Create a participation campaign – place print or digital advertising, develop a text campaign, organize a phone bank, hang fliers at essential sites or place in delivery services.

• Use the NC Census Outreach & Engagement Toolkit which offers logos, awareness materials, posters/fliers, speech drops, talking points, media kit, and many other resources.

• Follow @nccensus on Twitter, and Facebook and share posts on your social media. Please tag us and use the #MakeNCCount hashtag.

• Sign up for the North Carolina 2020 Census listserv to receive important updates.

As community partners, you fully understand the bottom line, that numbers—and people—matter. A complete count matters for our state and its residents. Help North Carolina bring tax dollars already paid back to our communities to support critical infrastructure and planning for housing, roads, public transportation and schools, as well as community services and programs including healthcare, education and food assistance in our state.

It is critical that the people of North Carolina understand that the 2020 Census is safe, easy and important. This is our once-per-decade opportunity to secure the resources and representation our communities deserve. With an all-important recovery effort in our immediate future, these resources are critical to our families, our cities and towns, our organizations and all North Carolinians.

Remember, the Census survey takes less than 10 minutes to complete, yet has the power to shape our future for the next 10 years. Thank you for your continued leadership, time and effort on behalf of our great state. Together, I know we will make NC count.

Machelle Sanders is secretary of the NC Department of Administration and chair of the NC Complete Count Commission.