Making It Count
Seeking Maximum Federal Dollars, County And M-NCPPC Push To Make 2020 Census A Safe Priority For Residents
Last Updated: July 16, 2019 // 1:40 a.m. // Watch This Space For Updates.
Story And Photos By Raoul Dennis
Jordan Baucum Colbert didn’t waste time in getting straight to the point.
“In 2010, our county was 2.3% under counted in terms of population. That adds up to about $18,000 over the course of 10 years per person. We left a lot of money on the table,” Baucum Colbert said to the small but growing audience at the July 11 ANC meeting in Temple Hills.
Residents braved flash flood warnings that evolved into end of days like downpours to attend the meeting. Baucum Colbert, the Project Coordinator for the 2020 Census for the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission tried to provide a warning of her own as to what could occur if county communities didn’t fully participate in the next census by sharing what was lost in the last one: “We lost a lot in terms of services, benefits, community funding, jobs, hospital growth. Those things that are important to us are not funded completely if we don’t complete the census.”
The discussion opened as a panel led by At-Large County Councilmember Mel Franklin, Outreach and Programs Division Manager Thomas F. Johnson, II of the Office of Community Relations and Ms. Baucum Colbert. The panel was followed by questions from the floor.
Mr. Franklin, who led the meeting’s discussion, has been a strong voice in the push to gain full participation in the 2020 Census. His office organized the meeting.
The panel leaders mentioned groups such as Common Cause, Casa, Telemundo, NBC4, the church community, social service offices as well as direct mail, bus racks, metro ad buys and utility bills in efforts to reach all corners of the county.
Johnson, who is a husband and father of five, likened the need to have greater community participation in part to the responsibility of taking care of family. He said that he was not always aware of the importance of taking part in the Census but that having a family altered his thinking.
“In order to sure that my wife, as a teacher, has the resources that she needs to do her job and to make sure that my children have all that they need in terms of services, I needed to participate. We need to be sure that we get our fair share of the federal funding that our population numbers deserve,” Johnson said.
He addressed other areas that the county will utilize as a platform for the 2020 census effort.
“We will work with all the agencies including the department of social services, family services, health services and other websites that people frequent. We will to utilize the 311 Call Center as well as a tool because every month there are up to 40,000 people calling in. We just need to put it out there.”
However, members of the audience, many of whom are community leaders themselves, understood the value and need for participation but were more concerned with issues of effective marketing among diverse communities, security, privacy and transparency.
Local leaders expressed an interest in supporting efforts to increase participation but needed to know how regional and state leaders would assure safety and privacy for families in light of the current national political climate.
“In Prince George’s County, we have a large population of West African and Caribbean people,” said Michelle Nuss of a political group known as Indivisible Voices Of Prince George’s County. Nuss spoke of the need to address varying situations for the county’s diverse constituency of over 35 nations that would deter people from coming forward to be counted. She mentioned expired Green Cards and undocumented workers as real world matters that create fear among potential Census respondents. “We need to keep that in mind in addition to the various Hispanic communities here.”
Nuss was also concerned about online security with the Census.
“How confident are we as it pertains to security with the census?”
“The laws are in place,” Baucum Colbert responded saying that the question comes up often. She’s met with the 2020 Census Regional Director on several occasions and has been assured that the information is confidential, secured and backed up by penalties of imprisonment for any deviation from approved processing. “I have to trust the law that they will protect our privacy.”
It was noted that households are identified by assigned numbers as opposed to by name for an additional level of privacy.