Thelda Williams: Pandemic demonstrates importance of Census
The COVID-19 crisis has undoubtedly turned a public eye on the importance of resources like hospitals and emergency services. In the coming months, the pandemic will continue to demonstrate how critical it is for the continuation of programs and services that matter in our communities, like hot school lunches for children and medical resources for older adults. Funding for these programs and services is impacted by census data.
An accurate population count in our city ultimately helps with all types of funding, including dollars allocated for emergencies like the one we are in now.
And so now more than ever, we need to ensure every person, in every household, in all of our Arizona communities are counted in the 2020 Census. The City of Phoenix has gone to great lengths to achieve the most accurate count, and over the last three months, the city’s self-response rate to the 2020 Census is 60 percent. Yet, a complete count is far from over.
There are neighborhoods surfacing as potentially undercounted areas and trending far below the city’s self-response average. There is potential that the people who live in historically undercounted areas were disproportionately impacted by the disruptions created by the novel coronavirus and find themselves dealing with more pressing issues delaying their response. We must take extra steps to ensure these neighborhoods are counted, so they can receive the funding they need!
To get ahead of this trend, the City of Phoenix took a proactive extra step on May 11 when it sent a team of trained canvassers to areas with low self-response rates, encouraging households to fill out their form. The canvassers are identifiable representatives of the City of Phoenix 2020 Census and are equipped with educational door hangers which have been minimally handled before being dropped off.
The canvassers will continue circulating through undercounted communities through May 31, adhering to guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) – wearing masks, gloves and practicing contactless strategies- as they work to educate the undercounted.
Executing a personalized outreach effort like this one is imperative, as people who are dealing with the impacts of COVID-19, may find that filling out their census form has become less of a priority under the circumstances. While the deadline to fill out the census form has been extended to October, this may also cause people to delay or forget about completing their questionnaire. For these reasons, canvassing outreach is timely and critical. After all, we only have one chance every ten years to obtain an accurate count of the entire population. Together, we can seize this chance!
To see how your community is doing in response to the 2020 Census, find a link to the self-response map by visiting www.icount2020.info
Phoenix City Councilwoman Thelda Williams represents northwest Phoenix and is chair of the City of Phoenix Ad Hoc 2020 Census Committee.