Everyone counts in Oregon
Fair, accurate count critical for meeting safety-net needs
Welcome to the year 2020, a year ending in zero — that means it’s time for the census. Required by the U.S. Constitution, the census has been conducted every decade since 1790. But this year is different. The census is headed for some big changes and a lot of people are working hard to make sure Oregon communities benefit.
The census determines congressional representation, federal funding allocation, and provides organizations with critical data to inform strategic decision making. Without a fair and accurate count, Oregon stands to lose billions of dollars in infrastructure and social safety net support that Oregon communities need, leaving a funding gap that will be difficult to fill. With an accurate count, all Oregonians win.
“This year we are anticipating some challenges we’ve never faced before, and it’s critically important that we address barriers for Oregon’s hardest-to-count communities,” says Kasi Allen, director of Learning and Knowledge Management for The Ford Family Foundation.
A dedicated group of agencies and organizations have been working for years to respond to the Census 2020 challenges. The Census Equity Funders Committee of Oregon is a collaborative of philanthropic organizations, including the Foundation, working in partnership with local and state agencies to reach “hard to count” communities for the 2020 census.
What is changing? For the first time in the census’ 230-year history, households will be able to participate in the federal questionnaire by using a phone, tablet or computer, which raises citizen concerns over cyber security and reinforces a digital divide when almost 20% of Oregon households do not have broadband internet.
Other challenges include:
- Reductions and delays in federal funding, creating a lack of critical infrastructure needed to support the count
- Fears among immigrants due to political and social dynamics
- Increasing public distrust of government
- Concerns regarding security of personal and online information
In addition, there was a very public debate over inclusion of a citizenship question, politicizing the census and instilling fear in communities of color. About one in nine Oregonians live with at least one non-citizen, and almost 80% of those who live with a non-citizen are people of color.
CEFCO is partnering with public agencies to implement the Hard to Count Campaign, which supports coordinated, locally relevant engagement, including door-to-door, community-based outreach and communications.
Hard-to-count communities are a demographic group that is at risk of not being counted in the census and may require costly follow-ups to ensure they are counted. The hard-to-count population includes young children, renters, immigrants and people of color. Southern Douglas County is considered one of the hardest-to-count areas in the United States. In 2010, only 66.2% of the area’s households responded to the initial questionnaire.
Many key safety-net programs are funded via census data, including SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program), school lunches, Section 8 housing, Head Start, Pell grants, short-term rental assistance, and medical assistance programs.
According to the Census Bureau, Oregon’s population has grown by 8.1% since 2010. If the current population estimates hold, Oregon stands to gain increased federal assistance and an additional congressional seat with an accurate count.
“The census is much more important than most people realize,” Allen says. “The 2020 changes are challenging, but we have the tools to respond. Each one of us needs to do our part because ensuring an accurate count in Oregon benefits all of us.”
What you need to do
In mid-March, homes across the country will begin receiving invitations to complete the 2020 Census. Once the invitation arrives, you should respond for your home in one of three ways: online, by phone, or by mail.
- Fill out the forms – ONLINE if possible. Request a paper copy if needed.
- Encourage others to do both of the above.
- Consider serving as a census worker.