How will Michigan funding, representation be affected by 2020 census?

Ask any Michigan leader about the 2020 census, and the reply likely will be that this all-important population count is not only key to understanding how many people live in the state, it is a chance to shape the future of every community.

According to census and local officials, this once-a-decade population count affects representation in government, determines how much funding a community receives and provides data to help these communities plan for the future.

Census officials are relying on what they’re calling Community Partners and Supporters to reach out to their members, employees, volunteers, customers and stakeholders to let them know that completing the 2020 census is safe, easy and, most of all, important. As a result, hundreds of businesses, organizations and individuals nationwide are voluntarily supporting a complete and accurate count in the 2020 census.

“The results of the 2020 census will help determine how hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funding flow into communities every year for the next decade. That funding shapes many different aspects of every community, no matter the size, no matter the location,” said Charmine Yates, a media specialist for the U.S. Census Bureau.

Moreover, Yates said, census results affect planning and funding for healthcare, including programs such as Medicaid, Medicare Part B, State Children’s Health Insurance as well as the prevention and treatment of substance abuse.

Statewide participation
Michigan has mobilized the Census Partnership program to help facilitate building our community coalition. Census partners are vital to ensuring a complete and accurate count, Yates said. Also, Michigan’s partnership specialists are forming complete count committees.

“Complete count committees help increase awareness of the 2020 census and motivate the public to respond. The committees are established by tribal, state, and local governments and by community leaders and organizations,” Yates said. “They can include representatives of businesses, schools, community organizations and faith-based groups.”

In Oakland County, Executive David Coulter and county commissioners have held an array of events to get residents interested and enthusiastic about the census. Recently, Coulter and commissioners hosted faith-based organizations from around the county to learn about efforts for a complete count during the 2020 census. Faith-based organizations play a key role in raising awareness about the census, especially in harder-to-count communities.

The city of Detroit has worked across a variety of mediums, even social media, to get the word out about its desire to have a complete census count. Its efforts to make sure every resident is counted requires both the city to gain local trust and investment in the project.

For example, the city recently shared on Twitter facts about the 2020 census and how it is “for everybody. Period.” The tweet asked: “Did you know that Detroit lost $300M over the last decade for resources like education, food assistance, and more because people were not counted? Make sure you fill out the census for yourself and your community.”

Media organizations have worked hard as well to learn how to better cover the census and ensure its results are properly reported. Local groups as well as national journalistic groups such as Florida-based Poynter have focused on media training for freelance writers, local newspapers, magazines and other media-forward groups.

Key populations
Also important is how Michigan is gearing up to count the youth and homeless populations. These groups are key to its federal funding and representation.

“Kids often get missed, especially in households with lower incomes,” said Parker James, a policy analyst for the Michigan League for Public Policy. “If we miss kids, then we miss out on really important dollars to help those kids.”

And people, particularly children, who lack a stable residence are at risk of going uncounted for the upcoming 2020 census.

Nearly 16,000 children up to age 4 lack a fixed night-time residence in Michigan, according to the League for Public Policy. Among the highest county rates of homeless children under 4 are 13% in Arenac County, 12% in Lake County and 11% in Alger County.

One of the hopes for greater accuracy is that the census form is available both online and on the phone for the first time, James said.

“Hopefully we’ll be able to achieve the best count that we can,” he said. “I think we need to make sure that we continue to ramp up our efforts.”

Complete count
The state launched a Complete Count Committee in June with lawmakers and association leaders to get ready for census day April 1. Partnerships with local governments can estimate people at risk of being missed by identifying where they might frequent, like a church or a grocery store, James said.

The U.S. Census Bureau gathers data from homeless shelters, Volunteers of America, the Salvation Army and other organizations that work with homeless people.

The Michigan Nonprofit Association also began video, billboard and radio campaigns that emphasize the consequences of undercounting residents.

The organization also helps local nonprofits host forums to assist people in completing the census.

“We think we’re uniquely suited to communicate with a lot of these groups,” said Joan Gustafson, the organization’s external affairs officer. “Nonprofits are in communities – they understand cultural sensitivities, they’re working with people every single day.”

Census data determines the number of representatives, the electoral votes and a state’s portion of federal funding for a variety of programs.

Programs dependent on census data include Medicare, Medicaid, free and reduced lunch, and school funding.

“Our campaign has estimated that for each person that doesn’t get counted, Michigan stands to lose $1,800 per person per year for 10 years,” Gustafson said.

Evan Jones of the Capital News Service contributed to this report. Here is the link to his story: