What if I told you you could get $1,800 annually for every person who lives in your home for a period of 10 years? And what if I told you that in order to get the money all you had to do was take 10 minutes to answer 9 questions. Would you do it? If you’re like me the answer is “Heck, yeah!” It seems simple enough. Easy money.
Yet, every decade thousands of Detroiters fail to complete their census survey essentially leaving billions of dollars on the table—dollars that could be going to schools, parks and recreation and even “fixing the damn roads”.
So what’s all the fuss? Why is it important to #BECOUNTED? Every 10 years the U.S. Constitution requires an accurate count of the country’s population. The reason for this is so that we can have equal representation in government and access to vital government resources. The information collected is then used to determine where federal resources will be sent for services like healthcare, public education, public housing and other federally funded programs that help our communities.
You may have noticed that the City of Detroit has put a full court press on promoting the 2020 Census. Ads flood our radio and social media timelines, billboards that feature famous residents like Big Sean, Ka$h Doll and Icewear Vezzo are plastered all over the city in an effort to avoid another undercount and hopefully signal an end to Detroit’s 60-year population decline.
Detroit has a reputation for being one of the hardest cities for U.S. Census workers to count accurately. According to the Associated Press, “When the U.S. Census Bureau starts counting people in Detroit, obstacles arise as more than 8 in 10 city residents live in neighborhoods considered ‘hard to count’ due to the abundance of vacant houses, sparse internet access and high poverty.”
The African American population has been historically undercounted in the Census, hurting families, communities and neighborhoods. “African Americans built this country and we deserve all the benefits of our blood, sweat and tears,” said Kamilia Landrum, Executive Director for the Detroit Branch NAACP. “Many of our ancestors were not counted for hundreds of years, so as we move forward, we must always take a stand and let our existence be known. It’s extremely important that each and every person’s name is recorded in the history books of America.”
Much has been said about whether the Census is a perfect tool or even the best way to count people. Former Detroit mayor Dave Bing challenged the 2010 Census results after data showed the city with its smallest population since 1910. Bing maintained the Census missed about 40,000 residents.
“It is one meaningful, albeit a little rickety, vehicle we have to ensure we get our fair share of national resources,” said Eli Day a freelance journalist and communications director with We the People Michigan. “I think the important thing to remember is that it’s just one tool in a much larger arsenal that we have at our disposal and it makes more sense to use it than not.”
Not being counted is costly; for every adult and every child that is not counted our state will lose about $1,800 in federal dollars every year. That adds up to $18,000 per person over the next 10 years and those are funds that we won’t get for our roads and bridges, hospitals and schools.
“If there is an undercount in Detroit, we could potentially loose a Congressional seat which would be a danger for us all,” said Landrum. “We can’t afford to have less representation for our community. If we miss 100 people, that’s $1.8 million that’s not coming to our community. We cannot afford to lose these dollars, especially as we prepare to deal with the repercussions of COVID-19.”
So, what about the people who say they just don’t believe in the Census? The people who don’t believe funding will make it to the areas where it is most needed. Complete it anyway. “Choosing not to participate causes extreme damage for our community; so please set your theories aside and #BECOUNTED,” Landrum said. “If you won’t do it for yourself, do it for the kid down the street who looks forward to the free lunch provided at their school. That may be the only meal that they will eat for the day, so please fill out the Census, to ensure they can eat again tomorrow.”
Join NAACP #10for10 and #BECOUNTED social media challenge. Call or text 10 family members, friends and co-workers to make sure they complete the 2020 Census. Post a picture of your list of ten people or your completed form along with the hashtags #10for10 and #BECOUNTED. You’ll be surprised at who needs a reminder! For more information on the completing the Census online, through the mail or over the phone, visit 2020Census.Gov.