THE 2019 CENSUS DESIGN THINKING FACILITATION WORKSHOP: A reflection from community leader, elizabeth hibbsRead Now
Elizabeth Hibbs Reflects on What a Complete Count Means for Her Community
As the Director of a nonprofit organization entitled (ECEA) Early Childhood Education Alliance, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I arrived at the Children’s Defense Fund’s Census Design Thinking Workshop. I knew that I would be collaborating with leaders from across the state of Ohio to learn about the 2020 census. This would allow us to bring information and resources back to our communities. However, I wasn’t aware of how powerful one little survey could be.
Prior to attending the workshop, I knew that the census took place every ten years and that it was a collection of community based data. What I didn’t realize is that for every person who participates in the census, the community receives $1,814. That means that just by participating in the census, a family of four can contribute $7,256 to their community without taking a dime from their own pocket!
The census is about so much more than data. It empowers people to access funding and resources for their communities. The state’s federal budget is created based on the number of people who participate in the census. This money goes towards community based programs and resources such as Highway and Transportation, Medicare, Medicaid, the free and reduced school lunch program, foster care, Head Start/Early Start early education programs, money for the Department of Education, Title I grants, Special Education grants, (CHIP) Children’s Health Insurance Program, Section 8 public housing and rental assistance, (SNAP) Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, (WIC) Women Infants and Children, (HEAP) home energy assistance program providing energy assistance for seniors and families with low income, and child care and development assistance.
Quite a few programs depend on the census for funding! This ultimately means that our communities depend on each person residing in the area to do our part and participate. This brought me to my next set of questions, “How can I participate, and what can I do to increase awareness?” Times are changing.
I’m told that census takers used to walk from door to door to assist with the census. As needed, paper copies can be requested and assistance is provided in some areas. However, the 2020 census will be mainly done electronically. The goal is to create ease of access and to increase accessibility. Ideally, it will only take a few minutes to electronically complete the census. Those few minutes are critical to community budgets and resources. They are also critical to congressional representation.
The number of people who participate in the census directly correlates to congressional representation. The more Ohioans who complete the census, the better our state is represented. In 2010, Ohio lost two congressional seats due to a decrease in census participation. After attending this workshop, I aim to do my part in remedying this situation by increasing awareness and participation across the state.
Knowledge is power. The more informed we become as a community, the more proactive we’re able to become. Due to a lack of complete understanding and knowledge about the census and its processes, people aren’t aware of their ability to make a positive impact upon the communities in which they live. Participating in the census can give me a voice, and provide a better quality of life for my community. Being counted tells my community that I am here and wanting to benefit from the improved services and infrastructure that a complete census count could provide—even if it just means I’m helping to improve our roads.
The 2020 census is a commitment to the investment of our communities. It allows us to secure the proper resources and political representation entitled to us. Our participation in the census process is a pathway to an investment in our community and ourselves. We must change the public’s perception of the census and provide proper support, while ensuring technological access and assistance to those who need it.
Now that we have this information, the real power is in what we do with it. EVERY person can make a difference in his or her community—just by participating in the census. The first step is awareness. Once we’re aware, we must share the information with others. Finally, we must all participate in the census. Our communities depend on us.