Census-counting efforts gear up as forms go into the mail

Portland

#WeCountOregon has been recruiting and training census workers with diverse backgrounds

Demonstrators rally at the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC, on April 23, 2019, to protest a proposal to add a citizenship question in the 2020 Census. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP)

A well-funded coordinated campaign is underway in Oregon to ensure that everyone is counted in the 2020 Census, especially traditionally under-served and hard to count communities. 

Among other things, #WeCountOregon has been recruiting and training census workers with diverse backgrounds, including Native people, people of color, and immigrants. Organizing efforts are taking place in cities and rural areas throughout the state. 

Activities are increasing as census forms go in the mail this week. Two events took place in Portland on Saturday alone. 

One was an Ambassador Training Summit held at the Muslim Educational Trust Community Center Al-Madinah Hall, 10330 S.W. Scholls Ferry Rd., on March 7. Ambassadors are people trained to educate their peers about the census and encourage them to complete the forms. 

The other was a Census Field Organizer Job Fair also hosted by East County Rising and the Latino Network at Fairview City Hall, 1300 N.E. Village St., Fairview.

The campaign is also opening and staffing Census Assistance Centers throughout the state. Locations include libraries, nonprofit organizations, and food banks. 

The goal is to ensure that 200,000 Oregonians are counted who might otherwise be missed, including minorities, children and renters. The census is conducted every 10 years. An accurate count could give the state a sixth congressional seat, billions of dollars in additional federal funds every year, and numerous other benefits. 

“The census is about power and money,” said the materials distributed at the summit. 

Muslim Education Trust president and co-founder Wajdi Said urged Muslims to participate in the count at the beginning of the Saturday event, which was attended by more than 100 people, with most women wearing hijabs. He urged them to help increase the government-funded services that benefit everyone. 

“If you’re not at the table, you’re part of the menu,” Said told the crowd. He was joined onstage by Kayse Jama, executive director of Unite Oregon, which co-sponsored the event. 

Campaign led by people of color

The statewide campaign is being organized by Dancing Hearts Consulting, a firm owned and operated primarily by people of color in Ashland. It had a team of trainers at the center that is traveling to similar events across the state. Known as Census Equity Coordinators, the represent other co-sponsors, including the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon, the Native American Youth and Family Center, Causa and PCUN. 

“We are truly people included in the estimated 1 million members of hard-to-count groups in Oregon. I’m Latina and Native American and I have a 5-year-old, all of those identifiers make me historically hard to count,” said Communication Director Mandy Yeahpau. 

The firm was retained through a competitive bidding process conducted by the United Way. It is supported by millions of dollars from other non-profit organizations and governments, including Oregon and Multnomah County. 

#WeCountOregon will also be hosting another Portland event on April 1, otherwise known as Census Day, the day when all forms are to have been delivered. It will be held at Portland Mercado, 7238 S.E. Foster Rd. 

Counting the benefits

National, state, regional and local officials urge all households to complete and return their forms for several reasons. First, census results help the people and the government to understand who Americans are, where they live, and how they are changing over time. And second, the census determines important funding and electoral decisions, such as the following:

Representation

The census determines how many members of the House of Representatives each state gets in Congress. Census data also is used to redraw federal and state district boundaries. Oregon is expected to gain another member in the U.S. House, since the state population is growing and some other states’ populations are shrinking. Those details will be revealed in the 2020 Census. 

Funding

The federal government distributes more than $675 billion every year to states and communities based on Census Bureau data. Oregon’s current portion of annual federal funding based on the 2010 census is around $13.5 billion 

Other decisions

Other governments, private businesses and non-profit organizations also use census data to help make countless other spending decisions that affect people throughout the country. 

The governments of Portland and Multnomah County are both funding programs to ensure the return of completed census surveys, especially among members of traditionally under-served communities. The Multnomah County Commission will be briefed on the efforts on March 24. 

“Multnomah County communities are some of the hardest for the Census Bureau to count, our mobile efforts and activation of county offices seek to fill that gap and secure investments our residents need. The upcoming U.S. Census sets a baseline for the next decade of funding and national representation. A complete count adequately funds health services, nutrition programs like school lunches, and road and infrastructure planning,” said Commissioner Lori Stegmann, who is the lead for the county’s efforts and serves on the Governor’s Complete Count Committee for Oregon. You can learn about these efforts on their websites and at county library branches. 

Additional information is also available at wecountoregon.com.

The Portland Tribune is a KOIN 6 News media partner

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