Let’s Make Sure Everyone in Virginia is Counted in the Census

In the summer of 2010, I logged long and hot days working as a Census enumerator in Richmond. My job involved knocking on doors and tracking people down so they would be counted in the massive undertaking that impacts every household and every locality.

As one of the few enumerators who spoke fluent Spanish, I was sent to Richmond’s Southside communities to conduct Census outreach to Hispanic families–-a community historically undercounted in the Census.

Many people I talked to weren’t aware of what the Census was. They didn’t trust someone who was coming to their house to ask how many people lived there. It was my job to calm their concerns and gain their trust so that they understood how important it was that they participate. This distrust is one of many barriers we face in getting an accurate count for the census.

It was A LOT of work, but I was proud of my small contribution to making sure the 2010 Census was as fair and accurate of a count as it could be. Even though I was out there talking to Hispanic families, there weren’t enough people doing outreach in the Hispanic community for the Census. How do I know that? Every day, I would get more assignments and at the end of the Census count, I didn’t get to all of the houses that I needed to count.  

WOW, ten years have flown by. I guess I’m old now, but the 2020 Census is right around the corner. And it’s in serious danger y’all.

Stop Census Sabotage!

Republicans, on the national and state level, are doing their best to undermine the 2020 Census. Their attacks could result in a historic undercount of communities that need census-driven federal funding to survive. Sabotage from the Trump administration and underfunding from Republicans in Congress pose a dire threat to a successful Census in 2020.

In the meantime, conservatives in Virginia’s legislature slashed $1.5 million from the budget for Census outreach in the Commonwealth. That means there will be less people like me working in communities to reach out to people who aren’t likely to participate in the Census.  

We Can’t Afford to Mess Up the Census

An undercount will have major implications on Virginia’s representation and funding that boosts low-income communities. The Census is so important in determining how many seats Virginia gets in Congress. It is predicted that Virginia will gain an additional seat in the House of Representatives as well as an additional electoral vote after the 2020 Census. The prospect of increased representation is exciting news, but that won’t happen if we don’t get an accurate count.  

Accurate counts in the Census are crucial for funding programs that boost communities of color. More than $400 billion in federal funding a year is directed to fund programs like Head Start, SNAP benefits, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). In 2014, Virginia received $9.5 billion in federal aid. That accounted for nearly a quarter of our state’s budget. That’s a huge chunk of change that we can’t afford to lose.

Restore Funding for Census Outreach in Virginia!

We’re fighting for funding for Census outreach in the Commonwealth so everyone in Virginia is counted, especially communities of color. Governor Northam included $1.5 million in his budget for Census outreach, but conservative lawmakers gutted that funding. There is still hope. When the budget arrives on Gov. Northam’s desk, he can restore the Census outreach money. Email Governor Northam today and demand that he amend the budget to restore funding for Census outreach.