For years, Ward 8 residents have been undercounted during the decennial census but the Anacostia Coordinating Council has determined that 2020 will be different.
“Ward 8 counts,” Phillip Pannell, executive director of the Anacostia Coordinating Council (ACC), said at the council’s monthly meeting on Aug. 27 at Martha’s Table in Southeast. “We have received a $$75,000 grant from the city for outreach in Ward 8 and we will be visiting community groups and organizations throughout the ward to talk about the importance of the census.”
Every person living in the U.S. as of April 1, 2020 will be counted by the U.S. Census Bureau. The U.S. Constitution requires that a count of all people living in the country takes place every 10 years, and that has been done since 1790.
The federal government considers the District as a state for the purposes of the census.
The census determines how $675 billion are spent across the country as well as representation in the U.S. House. In the District, $3 billion comes from the federal government through programs such as Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and housing vouchers.
While the District has a fixed delegate representing it in the U.S. Congress in the House, census data helps the D.C. Council redraw ward and advisory neighborhood commission boundaries.
In mid-March 2020, the Census Bureau will mail out an invitation for each household in the country to participate in the count. The census will be based on residential addresses and allows for one submission per household.
Melissa Bird, executive director of District 2020, the city government’s effort for a full and complete count, spoke at the ACC meeting about the census and elaborated on what defines a household.
“Every person living in a residence will be counted,” Bird said. “There will be one person who fills out the form for the household. Living in a household could be a family, renters or roomers. The purpose is to count everyone who lives at the residence from the age of 5 and up.”
In a first, people can fill out their census forms online — though the news wasn’t exactly met with enthusiasm at the meeting.
Bird addressed the residents’ concern, saying people can respond to the census by telephone or by requesting a hard copy via mail. She said a census enumerator will stop by residences if a form hasn’t been completed by the beginning of May.
“We are fully aware that 22 percent of District residents do not have a personal internet subscription,” she said.
Bird said no citizenship question will be on the census form.
She said D.C. residents who are incarcerated in other states are counted in those states in the census.
Bird said the ACC will work with the support of the Bowser administration to count every Ward 8 resident, realizing that many are low-income African Americans, seniors and children younger than 5. She presented a colorful map of the District divided in wards, with dark blue areas indicating low response to the census in the 30-42.2 percent range and those in beige showing 8.3-15.9 percent high response.
Much of Ward 8 lies in the dark blue and Bird said the ACC will try to change that.
“That is why we are in the ramp up phase right now,” Bird said. “The ACC know best how to share the importance of the census to the community.”