William J. Ford

Diversity Underscores Final Push for Census Count in Prince George’s

Spanish-Speaking Help Secured at 11th Hour

Christopher Paul Johnson of Landover can’t wait to vote so can make sure the elected officials he chooses will provide employment opportunities for those formally incarcerated such as himself.

However, he didn’t know about the 2020 U.S. Census.

Monica Young gave Johnson a census door hanger and encouraged him to fill out the form online.

“This is how you fill it out. It takes 10 minutes. It’s very simple,” Young, chief of staff for Prince George’s County Council member Jolene Ivey (D-District 5) of Cheverly, said Saturday, Sept. 12.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, Young and three other members of Ivey’s staff couldn’t knock on doors inside buildings at Kent Village in Landover.

They set up a census and voter information table along a sidewalk and greeted residents who either walked to the table or came out of nearby buildings.

Besides Kent Village, Ivey and Cheverly Mayor Laila Riazi distributed census and voter information outside Cheverly Gardens apartments. With some of the highest number of residential units in the District 5 area, Cheverly Gardens and Kent Village recorded lower than expected census counts in 2010.

“I don’t think everybody makes the connection of filling out the census and what you see around you,” Ivey said. “Do you have adequate public transportation? Do you have great health care in your area? All the things that make your life better are funded, in large part, through federal money that comes to your community.”

Census data helps determine how to distribute an estimated $1.5 trillion in federal dollars from the county held every 10 years toward Medicaid schools and housing in addition to helping determine the state’s representation in Congress. The participation for Maryland residents means federal aid of slightly more than $18,000 per person over the next decade.

This year’s census allows residents to fill out forms online.

The coronavirus has limited large community gatherings, so county and municipal officials and community organizers have given out information at food distribution events.

By law the census count must be completed and delivered to the president by Dec. 31, but the actual data collection deadline remains in limbo.

A U.S. District judge in San Jose, Calif. issued a temporary restraining order blocking the Census Bureau from ending its operations until a court hearing Thursday, Sept. 17.

A lawsuit filed by coalition of cities and civil rights groups contend the bureau ending the count by Sept. 30 would undercount minority communities. The suit demands the bureau use the previous deadline of Oct. 31 to complete the count.

As of Friday, Sept. 11, Maryland joins nine other states with at least a 70 percent self-response rate. That figure ranks above the nationwide rate of 65.7 percent.

Prince George’s County ranks 12th in the state with a 68 percent response rate. Three municipalities in the majority Black jurisdiction are in the top 20 in the state: University Park (ranked number one at 90.6 percent); Bowie (ranked number 16 at 83.4 percent); and Berwyn Heights (ranked 19 at 82.2 percent).

One constant challenge in parts of Maryland engaging Spanish-speaking volunteers.

Ivey chatted with Juana Maria Duarte near the information table at Cheverly Garden, but Duarte speaks limited English.

Riazi called her constituent and friend, Diane La Voy, a senior citizen who speaks fluent Spanish.

After a brief conversation, Duarte, who lives with her daughter, agreed to help handle census information. In addition, Duarte’s registered to vote.

“This shows seniors are important. Seniors are dynamic,” Riazi said. “We have to do everything we can to make sure everyone is counted.”

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William J. Ford – Washington Informer Staff Writer

I decided I wanted to become a better writer while attending Bowie State University and figured that writing for the school newspaper would help. I’m not sure how much it helped, but I enjoyed it so much I decided to keep on doing it, which I still thoroughly enjoy 20 years later. If I weren’t a journalist, I would coach youth basketball. Actually, I still play basketball, or at least try to play, once a week. My kryptonite is peanut butter. What makes me happy – seeing my son and two godchildren grow up. On the other hand, a bad call made by an official during a football or basketball game makes me throw up my hands and scream. Favorite foods include pancakes and scrambled eggs which I could eat 24-7. The strangest thing that’s ever happened to me, or more accurately the most painful, was when I was hit by a car on Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia. If I had the power or money to change the world, I’d make sure everyone had three meals a day. And while I don’t have a motto or favorite quote, I continue to laugh which keeps me from driving myself crazy. You can reach me several ways: Twitter @jabariwill, Instagram will_iam.ford2281 or e-mail, wford@washingtoninformer.com

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