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NLIHC Urges Advocates to Promote Full Participation in the 2020 Census

A national census is required by the U.S. Constitution once every ten years. A full and accurate 2020 census is critical to ensure that under-represented populations, such as extremely low-income renter households, homeless households, racial and ethnic minorities, immigrants, and people with disabilities, are counted. NLIHC urges advocates to use materials provided by the Census Counts campaign, other advocacy organizations, and the U.S. Census Bureau to encourage people to complete 2020 census materials sent to them. Memo to Members and Partners will have frequent articles about the 2020 census as the nation approaches Census Day on April 1, 2020.

A full and accurate 2020 census count is important in the context of affordable and accessible housing because census numbers are used to distribute billions of dollars every year related to housing, including Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers and other housing assistance programs. In addition, public officials and private developers rely on census data to identify places where the population is growing and new investments in affordable housing are needed. If all of the people in a community, especially those often under-represented in past censuses, are not fully counted in the 2020 census, more people will lack affordable places to live.

A major source of information for a broad range of advocates is Census Counts, a collaborative campaign coordinated by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights (The Leadership Conference). Census Counts involves more than 15 national organizations and dozens of community partners in more than 30 states working to ensure the 2020 census is fair and accurate – so that all people, especially those who are often under-represented, have access to the political power they deserve and the resources their communities need. The campaign works to educate stakeholders and the public about the importance of a fair and accurate census for all people.

Some communities, including people with lower incomes and people of color, have historically been harder to count fully. Therefore, the Census Counts campaign is mobilizing community leaders to do everything they can to prevent people from being missed by the 2020 census. As the Census Counts campaign states, “If we are in the streets, and on the news, and even in the polling booth, but not in the Census, we will find the things that we need are still missing. This is the time to get involved. The Census counts. So do you.”

Census data shape the future of communities and can amplify the voices of under-represented people in Congress. States and communities not fully counted could lose political influence and resources. Census data will determine how more than $800 billion in federal government resources will be distributed each year and where schools, roads, and hospitals are built. Census data will also determine how many congressional seats are apportioned among the states so that there is fair political representation in Congress, and an accurate count will provide fair political representation in state and local legislative bodies as well. A state could lose a member of Congress and a city could lose representation in the state legislature if their populations are not fully counted. Such a loss of political power and resources would last for 10 years, until the next census.

Among other resources on the Census Counts website are materials on its Impact webpage focusing on issues such as health care, education, transportation, jobs. There is also an extensive array of resources in the Census Counts library.

Census Counts has a simple #CountMeIn pledge form where individuals can pledge to be counted and to educate their community about the importance of the 2020 census.