Look for signs that East Lansing is getting ready for the 2020 census, because its Complete Count Committee met Sept. 23 to discuss plans to distribute new flyers around the city.
These flyers are set to go out to various locations, including the Hannah Community Center and the East Lansing Public Library. The committee hopes to reach people that are harder to reach, including older individuals, international students and families, children and people of color, said Ragine Head, the city’s Census Complete Count Committee intern.
“Notifying each group of how they directly benefit from these resources has been our primary goal,” Head said.
Kerry Ebersole, Census 2020 executive director for the state of Michigan, is prioritizing outreach to historically undercounted areas.
“Historically, across the nation, communities of color have been undercounted in the census and we are working extremely hard to change that in Michigan by letting people know about the Three C’s,” Ebersole wrote in a statement.
These three C’s highlight the positive aspects of the census, this being convenience, confidentiality and the community benefits.
Ebersole notes that college students are among the historically undercounted but she is looking to change that.
“More than $3 billion in federal student loans and Pell grants for Michigan college students are tied to the census count, making the importance of completing the census that much greater. In coming months, we will hold activities on campuses across the state to ensure Michigan’s college students are accurately represented in the 2020 census,” wrote Ebersole.
This census has a new partnership with MSU to count much of the student population, Head said.
“This year is the first time ever that we have a partnership with MSU and we’ll be able to use administrative records in order to produce information on students staying on the dormitories or within residence halls,” she said. Despite this they do encourage students to fill out the census on their own. “A lot of our efforts will be going to mailing out flyers or postcards to primarily student-living areas.”
Head said the census helps determine how much federal money goes to areas because funding is based on population. This money may go toward many things, such as roads, new schools and libraries. The Census 2020 website said that it also determines how many seats states have in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Students off-campus, Head said, are at risk of not being counted. This is a big concern of the city, she said.
“Federal funding of approximately $1,800 per person, per year will be allocated to communities over the next 10 years for each person counted,” said the East Lansing census website. “In Michigan, 42 percent of the state’s budget relies on federal funding and more than $15 billion in federal and state funding has been distributed to Michigan communities annually based on census data.”
Hayg Oshagan, director of New Michigan Media, is aiding in outreach to the historically undercounted through his organization, especially to ethnic and minority citizens.
“The remedy is to have the census explained, to understand what’s at stake with the census with their own communities and then to hear this message from trusted voices,” Oshagan said. “If [the census] is undercounted, it doesn’t mean that the kids that need school lunches disappear. The kids are still there, it’s just that the money that they need for school lunches goes away.”
Oshagan said that minorities are typically among those undercounted but are also those that benefit the most from an accurate count from the census.
“A lot of the social services most needed are by minorities across the state,” he said. “It’s critical.Some of the more conservative estimates [of undercounting] is a 50,000 person [deficit]. Which is over a billion dollars for Michigan.”
He estimates the undercount is triple the 50,000 estimate.
Head said because this year there is an online version of the census the city is hoping to improve response rates for those hard-to-reach populations.
For East Lansing, much of the outreach is done through social media, special events and news coverage.