“Your community is counting on you.”
That was the message delivered by Capt. Census on Thursday at the 2020 Census Community Kickoff, held at the Kenosha YMCA, 7103 53rd St.
About 25 elected officials, residents and representatives of special interest groups highlighted the importance of the Census and helping others understand the significance of the decennial national head count.
“If we do not do a good job of counting people in our community, we lose,” said Kenosha Mayor John Antaramian.
“The Census is the lifeblood for federal funds,” Antaramian said. “Since the last Census, (the city of Kenosha) received $14 million in Community Block Development Funds. Those funds are at risk if we do not get the right count.”
Noting that the U.S. Census has been implemented since 1790, Gina Manley, partnership coordinator for the Chicago Regional Census Committee, stressed that everyone — from newborns to seniors — needs to be counted.
Responses determine allocation of more than $800 billion in federal funds for health clinics, schools and roads. The numbers also determine the number of seats each state has in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Leading the charge
Capt. Census, aka Matt Dannenberg, mascot for the Wisconsin 2020 Census, did a cartwheel for the crowd, and then turned to more serious matters.
A representative of Wisconsin Voices, a nonprofit group aimed at engaging residents in state issues, Dannenberg pointed out that where other states have budgeted millions of dollars for Census promotion and education, Gov. Evers’ efforts to secure $1 million were denied.
Addressing the audience, he said, “This means you are the ‘Census Justice League,’ the heroes and trusted voices to get the word about about the Census.”
No citizenship question
Russ Hahn from Congregations United to Serve Humanity pointed out that immigrants are wary about this year’s Census due to concerns that a question about citizenship would be included on the Census questionnaire. That question was eventually dropped.
“They feel vulnerable, and we need to make sure they feel OK (about answering the Census),” he said.
Helping Hispanics and Latinos understand the importance of their numbers was highlighted by Juan Torres, Kenosha Unified School District employee and Census subgroup specialist.
“They need to understand what can be lost by not being reported; it denies you a full voice in making decisions in your government,” he said.
Counting seniors, students
Denise Jacobs, director of the Kenosha Senior Center, said her job would be to help seniors feel safe answering the Census.
“We have to help them understand this is not a scam; that if they answer early enough, no one will be knocking at their doors,” she said.
Manley mentioned the need for special outreach to students to be counted in the towns where they attend school.
“It’s neighbors counting neighbors,” Manley said.
Forms on the way
Kenosha’s official kickoff was part of the nationwide rollout. From now through March 20, households will receive official Census Bureau mail with detailed information on how to respond to the 2020 Census online, by phone or by mail.
April 1 is official Census Day. When responding to the Census, individuals indicate where they are residing as of April 1, 2020.
Households that have not responded by the end of April can expect an in-person visit from Census workers known as enumerators.
Special in-person data collection efforts are also made for those in special circumstances, including college students living on campus, detention centers and nursing homes.
Even those who are homeless are counted.
From March 30 to April 1, Census workers will go to homeless shelters, soup kitchens and to outdoor locations and encampments to count those who are unsheltered.
The census is mandated by Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution to take place every 10 years.
According to the Government Accounting Office, the 2020 Census is estimated to cost approximately $15.6 billion.
This amount has risen over the past 50 years, the agency says, “because the nation’s population is more difficult to count.”
In the 2010 census, Wisconsin ranked first in the nation for mailed-in responses.
“We need to do it. It’s an extremely important part of where we live; how we live,” said 15th District Ald. Jack Rose.
Thursday's event was sponsored by the city of Kenosha's Complete Count Committee, chaired by Katherine Marks, community outreach coordinator for the city.