Every 10 years, the United States Census captures a moment in time to build a fiscal foundation for the next decade.
By taking the survey, we are saying, “I am here and my needs count.” Consider it a statistical-version of a selfie.
This year’s Census is about equity and social justice. The year 2020 has led us to an unprecedented crossroads: a pandemic taxing our economy and health care systems during an election year amid cries to abolish systemic racism.
With so much happening around us, it’s easy to overlook this simple survey. But the 10 Census questions are your constitutional right. No matter what political party you align with, every person of every age, regardless of citizenship, has the right to be counted.
You may ask, “why does this matter right now?”
There is no way we could have imagined in 2010 that we would be combating a pandemic. But those of us who filled out our Census forms gave the federal government a road map for this very moment. That decade-old data was put into action this year to distribute CARES Act funding, emergency preparedness and much-needed economic relief for working families and small businesses.
Given our aging baby boomer population, funding for senior services, health care and Medicare will become even more vital. The survey data gathered now will help identify medically underserved areas, with shortages of health care providers and what public services will be required through 2030. As the coronavirus has shown us, having accurate and precise data is essential to meet the needs of the sick.
On a daily basis, the roads, bridges and public transportation options we rely on to get to work or get our children to school also use Census data to determine funding, as do the schools themselves and child-care services. It also helps people experiencing hunger and homelessness, and those living with disabilities.
For every person left out of the Census Count, California could lose $1,000 per person, per year, for the next 10 years, a loss of $10,000 per uncounted person.
Going back to the 2000 Census, California gained a congressional representative. With supplemental federal dollars on the line, it is critical to have that representation.
The Census is not a citizenship survey.
The current administration’s ongoing attempt to circumvent the law and exclude immigrants among those counted is unconscionable and unconstitutional. The Supreme Court of the United States already blocked the citizenship question from being included on the Census.
Now more than ever, we need everyone to participate in the 2020 Census so that we can ensure the law, not divisive politics, governs our land. It is a secure survey designed to provide equity.
While the deadline for the Census has been modified to September 30, Census workers will begin going door-to-door to homes that haven’t yet responded to the survey by mid-August. In light of the pandemic, it’s wiser to complete the survey online.
As the late Congressman John Robert Lewis said, “We need someone who is going to stand up, speak up and speak out for the people who need help.”
At this moment, that person is you. Be counted.
Toni G. Atkins is President pro Tempore of the California Senate. Having previously served as Speaker of the California Assembly, she began her tenure in the Senate in 2016. As senator for Senate District 39, she represents the cities of San Diego, Coronado, Del Mar and Solana Beach.