RACINE – City of Racine Mayor Cory Mason is urging residents to complete the 2020 U.S. Census as the end date for data collection has been moved up by a month from the end of October to Sept. 30.
In a statement issued Friday, Mayor Mason said: “The U.S. Constitution requires us to conduct a complete and accurate count of our country’s population once every ten years. Cutting the Census count short increases the likelihood of inaccurate data and a significant undercount that could deprive Racine and our residents of vital funding and political representation. An inaccurate count will negatively impact communities that have historically been the most undercounted, including racial and ethnic minorities, tenants, veterans, the homeless, and households who lack reliable internet access. Door-to-door Census efforts are often what’s needed to accurately reach and count those residents.”
Affected by COVID-19
Like nearly other aspect of life this year, the 2020 U.S. Census has been hobbled by the COVID-19 virus outbreak. Door-to-door outreach was delayed from April until July 30. Despite that, the overall response rate is running on par with, or slightly better than, the U.S. Census conducted a decade ago.
As of Sunday, the U.S. Census website showed Racine County’s response rate at 74.3 percent compared with 73.9 percent in 2010. Wisconsin’s response rate was at 70.2 percent compared with a 73.5 percent response rate for the 2010 Census.
The City of Racine had a 64.7 percent response rate as of Sunday. Its final response rate for the 2010 Census was 67.2 percent.
The mayor is particularly concerned about some census tracts within the city that are currently as low as 42.9 percent. “That means that in some parts of our community, only 4 of 10 residents have been counted so far,” Mason said.
Census data is used by the federal and state governments to allocate funding for a variety of local public needs including schools, housing, health care, meal programs and public transportation.
“Let’s be clear: the stakes of an accurate Census count are high. More than $675 billion in federal funds are distributed each year to communities like Racine for everything from schools to health care to housing to community services,” said Mason. “Undercounted communities will get less federal money than we really need, a particularly problematic prospect in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. If Racine residents are not counted, we will feel those very real consequences for years to come.”
M.T. Boyle, the County Executive’s Chief of Staff who leads the Racine County Complete Count Committee, also wants to see an accurate Census response rate throughout the county.
“Since COVID, we have worked closely with the YMCA, RUSD (Racine Unified School District), 9-to-5 and other local organizations to specifically and safely engage those residents in our lowest-counted Census tracts through car caravans and distributing locally branded fliers, posters and yard signs throughout the community, using food giveaways and other distribution points,” she said Monday. “For example, we printed and distributed thousands of fliers to be handed out at the Festival Hall COVID testing site.”
The four census tracts with the lowest response rate in the county (all located within the City of Racine) are gradually adding responses. As of Sunday, the U.S. Census website showed the response rates of Census Tract 2 at 55.3 percent, Census Tract 29 at 48.2 percent, Census Tract 4 at 45.4 percent and Census Tract 5 at 42.9 percent.
“Enumerators (census takers) have been interviewing households door-to-door in Racine County since July 30, and we are hoping to get more Mobile Questionnaire workers placed in more highly-trafficked venues and events to help our residents with the Census if need be,” said Boyle. “Of course, all safety protocols are used in light of the pandemic, and all U.S. Census workers are clearly identified by badges and other official documents.”
To help spur Census participation, Racine County is running a contest that offers a chance at a $50 grocery gift card to anyone who responds to the Census, or refers friend and family to complete the Census by Aug. 31. For details, visit https://www.racinecountycounts.org/racinecounts
Census schedule change political?
A stalemate in Congress over COVID-19 relief legislation – including possible additional funding for U.S. Census Bureau resources and changes in Census report deadlines – resulted in the agency changing the date that will stop collecting data from Oct. 31 to Sept. 30. That announcement was made on Aug. 3.
According to reports by The Associated Press, the Census Bureau needed the extra time to start processing the 2020 census data so the results would be ready at the end of the year.
Mason, however, contends that the schedule change is driven by the Trump Administration to adversely affect available resources for urban areas.
“This decision to shorten the window for a complete Census count is a politically motivated move by the Trump Administration,” said Mason. “Racine residents, don’t let the Trump Administration count you out. Don’t let them take millions of dollars away from our community that we need for our schools, community programs, housing, health care, transit, meal programs and more. Be counted today.”
How to be counted
The 2020 U.S. Census can be completed in several ways. To complete the Census online, visit www.my2020census.gov. By telephone, call 844-330-2020 (English) or 844-468-2020 (Spanish). By mail, complete the paper Census form that was mailed to your address this spring and return by Sept. 30.