The logo for the US Census. Text reads United States Census 2020
Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

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T

he following is a lot to read (all but my kitchen sink). But it’s written hoping the modge podge will help you sync up, stand up, and make change by being socially responsible and astute enough to push the needed changes through using the research, facts, data and analysis produced by the U.S. Commerce Department’s Bureau of The Census.

This is all about my, your, and our money as it relates to the U.S. Census. And believe me, it is definitely about getting the MONEY. But the census can only perform what it is mandated to do by law. Full disclosure: I once worked for the Census Bureau, as a data collector.

Why it matters

To get to the point, there are an estimated 350 million people in the United States of America. A NAACP Census Day Release says 800,000 Black people are estimated to not be accounted for in the count. Another huge segment of concern is the failure to count homeless persons and unregistered residents. Another problem: children ages one to four years old are missing from the data collection.

Those omissions mean cities and states are losing scads of money to underwrite, to enhance,or to continue funding support programs. We wonder why many services we need in our communities are underfunded, not funded, canceled. Might it be because 800,000 Black people did not fill out the 2010 Census form and 6.3 percent of young black children are overlooked?
(Oops: let us not forget the invisible uncounted: those incarcerated, arrested, or held without hearings because they can’t post bond. And don’t forget those under court supervision held in mental health facilities, group homes, and halfway houses. Who counts them? I guess that’s why money and comprehensive services are paltry. I bet you did not think or know about that. It’s not your problem, or is it? You see these people on the street every day. Too bad, the census does not count them. Our money allocations from the infamous Uncle Sam need to include them, too.

But don’t blame the government. Blame ourselves for not flexing our check and balance muscle to assure by law that all vulnerable segments who — excuse me, human beings — who are included. After all, the funds do come from tax and revenue collection from the hands of human beings as individuals and signatories of registered businesses. They have no voice or recognition except as a count under the prison health care industry, not the population census. We need legislation for that! Thank goodness advocacy groups like the ACLU exist to lead the way!

Leaving that all aside: Kyle Arbuckle, housing advocacy organizer at the National Low Income Housing Association, gives the best summation of what the U.S. Census is and what it means to we, the people: “We take a census every ten years. The data collected on the U.S. population is used by the cities, counties, and states to determine how much money will be allocated to housing programs, schools, school lunch, childcare, job training, economic development, the potholes you hate, the old bridges needing million dollar overhauls, the erecting of levees and flood barriers to protect and save people’s lives, building expansion and rehabbing of hospitals, public schools, universities, housing assistance vouchers, subsidies and programs for businesses, farmers, veterans, the financially challenged, hungry and ill, the elderly, those challenged and those with disabilities.”

The Population Census and the Industry Census are the sources of research and data used to determine the amount of money to be allocated per person, per sector by population/ industry. Then the award goes to, perhaps, whoever needs it the most. For the COVID-19 emergency relief stimulus package, money is authorized for working people to survive financially while hunkered down in place, contractors, services and supplies, hospitals’ needs to treat pandemic victims; the people needing hospitalization and care during this COVID-19 pandemic crisis. (Say: Thank you, Census)

A direct impact on housing

Arbuckle also stated “Every year, billions of dollars in federal funding go to hospitals, schools, roads, and other resources based on census data. Census data can be used to amplify the voices of under-represented people in Congress and shape the future of communities. For the past several years, National Low Income Housing Coalition’s The Gap uses data from the Census Bureau and concludes that there is no state in the U.S. with an adequate supply of affordable rental homes for the lowest-income renter. The solutions to the severe shortage of affordable homes is a significant and sustained federal commitment to housing programs designed to meet the affordability needs of the lowest-income families. However, some communities with the greatest needs have been harder to count in the census leaving the value of these programs less apparent.

“Through our participation in the 2020 Census and continued calls on Congress to fund affordable housing programs at the scale needed, we will ensure that significant investments in federal resources are targeted toward programs that will give the lowest-income renters access to affordable and decent homes.”

In closing, Arbuckle’s point is critical: politicians, PACs, marketers, pollsters, big pharma, banks and developers utilize census data and demographics on where and how to spend money. We should not be one sided. We need to utilize the data as justification for what we need, e.g., healthcare, education, housing, and jobs for all. If you love your money in the tax bucket and you want certified evidence to make your points in terms of funding for your state and community, fill out the 2020 Census.

It is the easiest in the history of America. Twelve questions and you are done, online no less, at 2020census.gov. There are no citizenship status questions and the Supreme Court assured the census could not be used for political mayhem. So immigrant residents should feel safe and secure in completing the census forms.

We the people have the two most powerful tools to work with: the vote and the census. Let us use both efficiently, because my piggy bank is empty. I can’t pay the rent, my bills, or the mortgages; My credit cards are busted; And I know I’m not alone.

Angie Whitehurst is an artist and vendor with Street Sense Media.