The U.S. Census Bureau hosts a news conference to share outreach plans for the Black community at the African American Civil War Museum in Northwest on Monday, March 2. (Anthony Tilghman/The Washington Informer)
The U.S. Census Bureau hosts a news conference to share outreach plans for the Black community at the African American Civil War Museum in Northwest on Monday, March 2. (Anthony Tilghman/The Washington Informer)

Starting Thursday, March 12, about 140 million households will begin receiving U.S. Census Bureau information to help build roads, plan new schools and assist in other capital projects.

According to the George Washington University Institute of Public Policy, federal programs in fiscal year 2017 relied on 2010 census data and distributed $1.5 trillion to state and local governments and nonprofit organizations, businesses and homes nationwide.

Based on population, the census totals can also redraw voting districts and realign congressional seats.

“The bottom line: It’s a lot of money,” according to Feb. 10 census analysis by George Washington. “In other words, census-guided spending makes up a large portion of the economy. The role of census-derived data in guiding that funding is not simple by any means, and the sensitivity of census-guided funding on state and local census accuracy differs greatly from program to program.”

In Maryland, the state could receive $16 billion toward initiatives such as school breakfasts, public housing and health care centers.
But state and county officials and advocates admit some residents remain uneducated about the impact of the census or simply don’t trust the process.

In addition, the federal government will allow people to participate in the once-in-a-decade count for the first time online at my2020census.gov. People can still fill out forms by paper or respond by telephone until March 20.

Census workers plan to count individuals in shelters, soup kitchens and tent encampments and others on the street March 30 through April 1, which will observe national “Census Day.”

During the month of April, college students who reside on campus and senior citizens in age-restricted communities will be visited to ensure they’ve been counted.

“This is an effort where everyone can participate in our democracy where every single person is counted and able to participate,” said Del. Jheanelle Wilkins (D-Montgomery County), one of state lawmakers leading the census effort in Maryland. “There are forces out there that don’t want people to be counted … and incite fear. This is about resources for our community.”

Wilkins and local leaders emphasized that personal information is only for statistical purposes and won’t be shared.

The Census Bureau published a 21-page community outreach toolkit which notes “we cannot share your information with immigration enforcement agencies, law enforcement agencies, or allow it to be used to determine your eligibility for government benefits.”

Any census worker caught distributing personal information faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Meanwhile, the NAACP, its Prince George’s County branch and the county government revived a lawsuit last month against the Census Bureau. The suit, previously filed by the NAACP in March 2018, alleges Congress allocated $1 billion to the bureau but hasn’t spent enough on advertising, hiring workers and other resources so Blacks and Latinos can be counted.

Prince George’s County Councilwoman Deni Taveras (D-District 2) of Adelphi, who represents the jurisdiction’s largest Latino population, said the census count ensures road improvements, education programs and other resources in local communities.

“The census is a change-maker for us,” she said. “Every dollar that comes from the federal government is to make sure you receive the appropriate amount of money for the safety net that is provided in this country.”

Coverage for the Washington Informer includes Prince George’s County government, school system and some state of Maryland government. Received an award in 2019 from the D.C. Chapter of the Society of...

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