Q&A with Chloe Updegraff, Census Hub Coordinator for Great Lakes Bay on making your response count

Chloe Updegraff is a graduate of the University of Michigan, where she received her Master’s Degree in Public Health. Her undergraduate work involved studying abroad in Central America, as well as playing basketball on scholarship. She has worked in diverse communities from Ann Arbor to rural Haiti to Tribal populations in Michigan, with the goal of improving health and wellbeing among all community members, both as a teacher as well as public health professional. Updegraff remains an active volunteer in the community, and enjoys coaching soccer and lacrosse.

As the newly appointed Census Hub Coordinator for the Great Lakes Bay Region, Updegraff will be working to ensure the region gets a fair and accurate count in the upcoming 2020 Census.

We sat down with Chloe to discuss her work, and how the 2020 census can help everyone in the community.

Q: Chloe, how long have you been a Midland resident, and what are your favorite things about Midland?

A: My family and I moved to Midland two and a half years ago. My favorite part of Midland is the Midland Soccer Club! I love coaching there and the Club’s mission to grow the game of soccer.

Q: What can you tell us about your job with the upcoming census?

A: As the Census Hub Coordinator for the Great Lakes Bay Region, I will be working closely with local organizations by providing support, training, partnership and funding to assure a fair and accurate count of the region (especially in hard-to-count populations), as well as giving an important voice to each resident in our community.

Q: What does the census do for the American people?

A: The United States Census Bureau counts each resident of the country every ten years and provides over $800 billion of annual funding for states and local communities. Census data is responsible for funding for everything from schools, to SNAP food assistance, to Medicaid, and roads (as well as many other necessary programs that our communities rely on).

For the 2020 Census, working with local non-profits, community organizations, and local government officials will be extremely important. People need to be aware that the Census isn’t just data; it means real funding for all sorts of programs that people depend on. It means funding for our schools and their free or reduced lunch programs. It means funds to fix our roads. It’s our crucial representation in Washington D.C. and Lansing, both places where our region needs a voice.

Q: What kind of challenges are you facing with the changes this year?

A: Unfortunately, regional and local Census offices are being reduced by 50 percent. Additionally, door-to-door outreach will be scaled back in favor of an online-first model which could hinder the response rate of lower-income populations or those who have limited access to the internet.

There is also the potential of a citizenship question, which could prevent immigrant populations from feeling comfortable taking part in the Census.

Q: How could Michigan be affected by an inaccurate census count?

A: It’s important that the community understands what’s at stake for this county and the region. Midland County alone stands to lose $122 million of annual funding if the Census Bureau/State demographer predictions are correct (meaning there is a prediction that there will be an undercount).

In Michigan as a whole, just a 1 percent undercount could cost the state $1 billion. So, it really comes down to dollars and cents for our communities.

On an individual level, for each person who does not take the Census in our state, we lose $1,800. That amount is multiplied by the 10-year period of the Census, and multiplied by each person who does not take part. We have so much at stake, but with the right partnerships, training, and grant funds toward a good count, we can really give our region a voice.

Q: Chloe, how can folks get involved and help?

A: We need help in getting the word out, like sharing posts on social media about the Census, and discussing its importance at meetings. Additionally, the Great Lakes Bay Regional Census Hub will have grant dollars for nonprofits, schools/ISDs, and government agencies in the area to help get out the count. We especially want to reach hard-to-count populations (i.e. parents with young children, older adults, immigrants, those with low access to technology, special needs populations and housing insecure/homeless).

If organizations are interested in applying for a grant, they can contact the program officer at the Community Foundation in their county (Bay, Midland, Isabella and Saginaw). We want organizations that have the trust of people in the community to help with this endeavor, because we have so much to gain if we get this right.

Q: It looks like you have had political aspirations in the past. Would you mind telling me about that, and what you learned?

A: This past fall, I ran for County Commissioner in Midland. I have wanted to run for office for a long time, and want to bring a public health perspective to politics, focusing on the myriad of ways that politics can help people and improve things in our state and for our environment.

I learned a lot in the process, and plan on running again, although most likely not at the local level; my aspirations are to run for state rep or state senate, in order to make impacts on our education system, healthcare, the Great Lakes, and human rights.

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Read more articles by Andrea Foster.

Andrea Foster is a writer for Catalyst Midland, and in her full time job an environmental educator for Little Forks Conservancy. She is a mother, a partner, an activist and a feminist. In her spare time she enjoys volunteering, kayaking, hiking, knitting, curling up on the couch with her cats and projects that benefit her community.