The TRENDS podcast is a collaboration between the Community Foundation of Boulder County and KGNU. It dives deep into the community’s most pressing issues and explores the changes happening throughout Boulder County through the experiences of community members, especially those often rendered invisible by commercial media, to shed light on community challenges, solutions, and pathways forward for the county and the country.
Listen to the Census 2020 TRENDS podcast episode below:
Resources: ● Boulder Census Info ● Longmont Census Info ● El Comite de Longmont
2020 is an important year. In November, voters will have their voices heard in the Presidential election, senate races and on many local issues. But people can also have their voices heard before the election even begins… and that is by being counted in the census.
However, not everyone wants to share their information with the government. While recent attempts to get a citizenship question included in the census were struck down in the courts, a feeling of distrust remains among certain communities.
With so much at stake, local groups are mobilizing to reach out to communities that have been historically undercounted to let them know the importance of taking part.
This time on the TRENDS podcast, a collaboration between KGNU and the Community Foundation of Boulder County, we take a look at local efforts to mobilize people to take part in the 2020 census.
Peggy Leech of the League of Women Voters of Boulder County is one of the co-chairs of the Boulder County Nonprofit Complete County Committee, one of four countywide Complete Count Committees.
“Colorado currently has seven representatives to Congress, says Leech. “It’s widely expected that our population has grown enough to where we’ll have eight representatives.”
There is also a lot of money at stake in the census says Chris Barge of the Community Foundation of Boulder County.
“There are 55 sources of federal funding that make their way into Boulder County, and this works out to about $2,300 per person per year. You multiply that by 10 years and you’re talking about $23,000 in federal funding allocation for every Boulder County resident.”
“[The census] leads to a tremendous amount of resources for all of us, from medical and emergency services to transportation and more funding for schools and school lunches,” says Ari Gerzon-Kessler, the Director of Equity and Partnerships at BVSD.
According to Gerzon-Kessler, “it really has ripples across our whole society in Boulder County and everywhere.”
BVSD passed a resolution in September that made a strong commitment to encouraging all community members to participate in the census.
At Boulder High School, Samantha Ibarra, Alison Aredondo Arellano and Paola Garcia Barron members of the Zonta or Z Club, have produced videos in English and Spanish to educate the Latinx community on the importance of the census.
She adds that in previous years, “many Latinos weren’t aware of what the census was and how they can get involved.”
Another group that is often undercounted are those experiencing homelessness.
Scott Medina of the Bridge House in Boulder says it’s important to count this community as it is a recognition of their humanity.
“So whether you’re living at an address or right now you’re experiencing homelessness, you still count as a human being,” says Medina. “So in that sense, [the census is] kind of a beautiful equalizer in that way.”
Just like Medina, CU law professor Ming Hsu Chen says the census is about recognizing that we’re all American and we all deserve to be counted.
However, lack of trust in the government among certain communities and an attempt to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census struck down by the Supreme Court has left lingering fears about the census among many immigrant families.
An analysis by the Center for Economic Studies predicted that a citizenship question would have caused almost 9 million people not to complete their census forms.
Many people are also nervous because the government has, in the past, used census data to target certain groups, something Marge Taniwaki is very familiar with.
“My view on the census directly comes from my World War II experience of being incarcerated for the first four years of my life in the concentration camps for Japanese Americans, when the census data was used to round us up,” says Taniwaki. “So I do have very specific reasons for not answering the census questions myself.”
But despite her reservations, Marge Taniwaki is working with a group of Asians and Pacific Islanders across Colorado to inform people of the benefits of filling out the census form and encouraging individuals to decide for themselves whether or not to participate.
The current level of mistrust for the government could have a significant impact, slashing benefits in states with higher numbers of at risk populations that have significant need of financial federal support and increased political representation in Congress.
Young children under five are the most likely group not be counted in the census.
Other frequently undercounted groups called “hard-to-count” populations by the Census Bureau are…
• Individuals who speak little or no English
• People who move often
• Low-income individuals
• People experiencing homelessness
• LGBTQ+ persons
• Anyone who distrusts the government
Cherry-Rose Anderson, Treasurer and Civil Engagement Chair with the NAACP of Boulder County and Co-chair of the Boulder County nonprofit Complete County Committee says we need to change how we think about these groups and the entire process.
“Our constitution calls for an actual enumeration of all of the persons living in the United States. Whether or not they’re convenient to count or not,” explains Anderson.
She points out, “It’s the responsibility of the government to do an actual enumeration and they’re not doing any special favors by reaching out to communities that may have distrust of the process.”
Glenda Robinson, also with the NAACP equates participating in the census with casting a vote, a right she fought for marching with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“I’m concerned about the African Americans’ participation in the [census] process and just trying to get people interested and having them know how impactful and important it is for them for us to let our voices be heard,” says Robinson.
Last year a bill was passed to allocate six million dollars towards census outreach in Colorado. The Boulder County Commissioners have also allocated funds along with many local foundations.
Chris Barge with the Community Foundation of Boulder County says they plan to use some of the funds they have raised to hire cultural brokers which he defines as, “people who come from hard-to-count populations, whether that’s a population of Latino, Spanish speakers, immigrants, seniors, rural mountain residents, families with children under the age of five people with disabilities. And our neighbors who may be experiencing homelessness or who have experienced homelessness recently and our students.”
Executive Director of El Comite in Longmont, Donna Lovato, says as the result of a grant for census outreach from the Rose Foundation they will have computers available for census takers as well as staff members and volunteers available to help people fill out their form. They can also help individuals fill out their forms by phone.
Lovato wants people to know, “this information is not going to be sold to anybody. It’s not going to be used for anything else. They’re just trying to count how many people in Colorado. It will help us get more money for the people who live here.”
“It’s really about counting everybody who lives in our community, says Lovato. “And whether you’re documented or not documented, you still contribute to our society and you need to be counted so we can have better resources for everybody in our community.”
This year people will have the option to fill out the census online.
- More info on census 2020
- Read the questions on census 2020
- Find out more about the Community Foundation of Boulder County’s coverage of the census in their recent TRENDS report
- Escucha el Programa del 2020 Censo en Pasa La Voz