Every 10 years, the U.S. Census Bureau attempts to get an accurate count of the population of the entire country. Even under normal circumstances, this is a humongous undertaking, and marginalized populations—such as people of color, immigrants, people who speak English as a second language, and LGBTQ people—are traditionally undercounted. Now, with the 2020 Census currently underway in what are definitively not normal circumstances, getting an accurate count of the population could be even more of a challenge. Many traditional means of community engagement and outreach for the Census, such as sending enumerators door-to-door and organizing Census Questionnaire Assistance Centers in communities across the country, are no longer options because of the COVID-19 pandemic. These community outreach efforts are especially important for reaching marginalized populations that are traditionally undercounted on the Census.
For LGBTQ people and for other undercounted populations, it is now more important than ever to participate in the Census. The data collected in the Census is vital to our country’s democracy and our communities’ political representation. Undercounts on the Census can lead to inaccurate and skewed representation in the federal, state, and local governments that set policies and guidance that can directly affect the health and well-being of LGBTQ Americans.
The 2020 Census data will also be used to determine how more than $675 billion in federal funds will be distributed to the states each year to support a wide variety of vital health and support services. For example, data from the Census determines how the federal government will allocate funding to the states for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Undercounts on the Census will result in less federal funding for these critical health programs and services for the next decade. Participation in the Census is a vital investment in the long-term health and well-being of our communities, and it provides important foundational data that health experts rely on to effectively respond to public health crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Now more than ever we are seeing the importance of taking action to ensure that our communities have strong public health infrastructures.
Given that in-person Census data collection has been stopped due to the COVID-19 pandemic, how can we best participate in the Census to ensure that we are counted? It may feel like participating in the Census is overwhelming, especially with everyone’s focus on staying safe and healthy during the pandemic. Luckily, the 2020 Census has made it even easier to participate from home. By now, most households should have received a mailing from the Census Bureau with instructions on how to complete the Census online and by phone. These methods are easy and safe because they do not require any in-person interaction and should take no longer than 10 minutes to complete entirely without leaving home.
Even in these difficult times, we have the power to ensure that our communities are counted accurately. Participate in the 2020 Census today!