Investing 10 minutes of your time earns $18,000 for your community. That’s why area agencies are pushing hard to make sure every person in the Great Lakes Bay Region completes the 2020 Census.
So far, we’re doing great. More people in the Great Lakes Bay Region have responded to the 2020 Census than anywhere else in the state, says Chloe Updegraff, coordinator for the Great Lakes Bay Regional Census Hub.
As of the first week of August, 76.4% of Bay County residents were counted. That is nearly 5 percentage points higher than any other area in the state. However, there are still a few areas within Bay County with lower response rates. In the City of Bay City, the overall response rate is 70%, but pockets exist where slightly more than half the residents have responded.
Chloe Updegraff, coordinator for the Great Lakes Bay Regional Census HubUpdegraff says there is still time to make sure everyone gets counted. The final deadline is Sept. 30.
“Overall we’re doing great, but we want to make sure that every part of every block in every part of the Great Lakes Bay Region is given the chance and given voice in this,” she says. “We want folks to understand that every voice is important in this.”
The U.S. Census, which takes place every 10 years, funds a wide range of programs. Often the people who most need the programs are those who skip the census, she adds.
“The census is really about community empowerment,” Updegraff says. “It’s about political voice in Lansing and in Washington, DC. A way that people can ensure that their community is empowered and given resources is to be counted in the census.”
Census numbers determine funding for programs such as schools, senior housing, child abuse prevention, and agencies that feed the hungry. The federal government also relies on census numbers to plan for low-income housing, Medicare and Medicaid programs, infrastructure, roads and bridges, and federal funding for higher education.
“All kinds of things in the community that we use in the community and we’ve come to depend on are funded through the census,” Updegraff says.
At least $1,800 per person per year for community programs is at stake, Updegraff says. For each person who isn’t counted, the community loses that money. “That adds up pretty quickly,” Updegraff says. Over the course of 10 years, missing one person in the census adds up to $18,000.
Although the COVID-19 outbreak poses a challenge to getting an accurate count, Updegraff says there are ways to fill out the census without risking exposure to the virus. You can register online for the census at https://2020census.gov/ If you don’t have a computer or internet, the Bay County Library System offers free access to computers. You also can call (844) 330-2020 to participate by phone.
Forms can also still be mailed to the U.S. Census Bureau. Census forms were sent to every household early in 2020. If you need help filling out the form, call 211 Northeast Michigan. “The easiest way to be counted is online or by phone,” she said, “which allows for social distancing and is available in multiple languages,” she adds.
“People may not realize that it is quick, it’s easy, it’s confidential. It takes less than 10 minutes, but the impact it has is so huge. It’s not so much taking time out of your day, but it’s about being able to make an impact in the community,” Updegraff says. “This is about so many things in our communities that are important to everyone.”
In the coming weeks, census workers are going door to door – while wearing masks and maintaining safe social distances – to help get as many people counted as possible. They will also be making phone calls to people who haven’t responded yet. “Folks need to understand that their voice is important in this for sure,” she says.
The Great Lakes Bay Regional Census Hub is a partnership between the Bay Area Community Foundation and other community non-profits, as well as the local governments working together to make sure everyone’s voice is heard and counted, Updegraff said.
Read more about the census in Route Bay City in this January 2020 article or this May 2019 article.