When I was first approached to advocate for greater participation in Census 2020, three main points were impressed upon me:
  • Florida was the third-worst counted state in 2010.
  • State funding was not adequate to achieve a complete count in 2020.
  • The census is not a political exercise but a civic endeavor.

The goal is to count all people where they are so that community needs can be met.

As inaugural fellow at The Patterson Foundation, my daily work is grounded in a simple mission to strengthen individuals, organizations, and communities. An accurate census count is crucial to the progress of that mission.

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When the Census 2020 Education project launched in January, TPF's goal was to amplify community efforts to achieve a complete census count in Charlotte, DeSoto, Manatee, and Sarasota counties and to discover the threads of census work and weave them into a tapestry of communication and shared success.

The name Census 2020 Education project is intentional. In a time of information overload, critical learning moments can be lost. The more you know about Census 2020, the more it makes sense to participate and encourage others to complete it. An accurate count means that our counties' piece of $675 billion in annual federal funding will reflect the true requirements of our community.

Through The Patterson Foundation's partnership with the Herald-Tribune, community leaders from faith organizations, local governments, and critical human service organizations have emphasized the impacts that an accurate census count will have on our region's ability to thrive for the next ten years.

What progress has been made? COVID-19 has certainly reworked the best-laid plans for census outreach. Fortunately for our community, the "helping gene" is strong. Through the assistance of schools, counties, and community-facing organizations, we're able to continue to reach families in hard-to-count areas.

Our communities are invested in making sure every person is counted. Because of COVID-19, the personal-response deadline has been extended. This is good news. It means that we have the opportunity to help our neighbors be counted and continue to educate on the importance of the census. But, it's also a challenge. Trust in the government is at an all-time low, and civil unrest is growing. The spotlight is necessarily on other things right now.

But the inequities in digital access have been highlighted during this COVID-19 crisis. The Census Bureau won't be doing any more mailings. For communities such as DeSoto, where only 19% of responses have come online, we need to be intentional about sharing how folks can respond. An accurate census count helps us better address inequities in our communities and mitigate against the disproportionate impact tragedies have on our under-resourced citizens.

In the midst of hurricane season, do emergency response teams have the right funding? Do national emergency-response organizations have the correct data if a disaster were to strike? Did our schools have the information they needed to prepare for a school year unlike any other? Are our hospitals under-resourced? Without a clear understanding of how many people live in our community (it doesn't matter who you are to the census), it's impossible to know the answers to these questions.

If you have concerns about data safety, I understand and encourage you to visit my2020census.gov or call 1-844-330-2020 for the answers to those questions. If you're wondering about what questions the census asks (I promise it's fewer than you think), you can visit the same resources or the H-T's Census 2020 primer.

Join me in this simple task to create a better future for our community.

To complete the census, visit www.2020census.gov. Census 2020 special coverage comes from Aspirations Journalism, an initiative of The Patterson Foundation and the Herald-Tribune to inform, inspire, and engage the community.

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