When the Maricopa Association of Governments and its 27-member jurisdictions began planning for the 2020 Census more than 18 months ago, we knew focusing on how census data impacts federal funding for local communities would be central to encouraging participation. We never could have envisioned that the 2020 Census would occur at the same time as an unimaginable public health and economic crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted our outreach plans, but also simultaneously magnified the importance of getting an accurate count since population numbers are used to calculate the distribution of billions of federal dollars to respond to and recover from this national crisis.
Data from the 2010 Census was fundamental in the calculations used to distribute dollars to local governments as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, to help lessen the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Local governments are putting these funds to work in many ways across the Maricopa County region by supporting health care services, public safety measures, and much-needed economic relief for residents and businesses.
Population data and demographic information supplied by the census is also key in the distribution of billions of federal dollars to support education. These funds will help our schools prepare for the challenge of educating our students safely and effectively in the upcoming school year.
While the disruptions caused by COVID-19 have far reaching impacts in every city, county, and state government, the focus on the 2020 Census has been unwavering because we understand there is too much at stake. What we do now in the 2020 Census will have a long-lasting impact on resources for continued recovery and on federal funding over the next decade. This is why our members began quickly innovating with ways to keep the 2020 Census relevant in their communities when daily routines were thoroughly disrupted.
Thankfully, iCount2020 — MAG’s 2020 Census public awareness campaign — was prepared for ‘contactless’ outreach and education. The campaign’s text messages and personal emails connect with people one-on-one in either English or Spanish.
Social media is an even more active online community and www.iCount2020.info capitalizes by providing a one-stop for 2020 Census information. The campaign, which was produced locally by MAG featuring real stories of a diverse group of people from across the Maricopa region, remains prominent on television, online and on radio in English and Spanish. And individual jurisdictions throughout the region continue to amplify these messages through their own websites, social media accounts, utility bills, newsletters, contests, and collaboration with nonprofit and faith-based partners.
The first-ever ability to complete the census online was critical as people began spending more time at home and online. Filling out the form safely and securely from home became a vitally relevant message. It has truly never been easier to respond to the census on your own without interacting with a census taker, however, the Census Bureau will start in-person follow up for households that haven’t yet responded.
During these uncertain times, we know that one sure way to help your community is to fill out the 2020 Census. Now more than ever, it is crucial that every person is counted in the census as they represent approximately $3,000 in funding annually for vital community programs including education, public safety, health care, housing, senior services, transportation and more.
Make no mistake, losing sight of the 2020 Census means losing sight of the future. Ten years ago, we could not have envisioned that the accuracy of our 2010 Census count would impact the resources that our communities and state would receive to combat and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Now each of us has the chance to ensure our community gets the resources we need to come out of this stronger and better prepared to address future challenges.
Go online now to iCount2020.info or call 1-844-330-2020 to fill out your census form. Learn more at www.icount2020.info or connect with us using @icount2020official on Instagram and Facebook, or @icount2020 on Twitter.
Jerry P. Weiers is mayor of Glendale and the chair of the Maricopa Association of Governments, which represents 27 cities and towns, Native nations, Maricopa County and portions of Pinal County.