The following is a conversation between Lindsay Torrico, Senior Director of Policy and Advocacy at United Way Worldwide, and Denver Frederick, Host of The Business of Giving on AM 970 The Answer WNYM in New York City.
Denver: The 2020 Census is about to get started, and United Way Worldwide is committed to seeing that everyone gets counted, which is no easy task. And here from the United Way to tell us about what they’re doing in this regard is Lindsay Torrico, Senior Director of Policy and Advocacy.
So, Lindsay, the Census is every ten years.Why is it so important for people to be counted?
Lindsay: Encouraging people to get counted in the 2020 Census really brings vital benefits to the communities that United Way serves. It ensures that people have access to community resources and stronger representation in government. Our work at United Way is based on accurate census counts. We need to have an understanding of the community needs and resources.
Denver: What are the most difficult populations to reach in doing the Census?
Lindsay: Well, we want everybody to be counted, but there are populations that have historically been underrepresented – and that includes the homeless population;, that includes young children. Actually, the 2010 Census undercounted 2 million children as well as communities of color
Denver: And we’re talking about $800 billion in federal funding here, which is going to be dependent upon these counts, correct?
Lindsay: That’s exactly right. The census determines $800 billion in funding for health, education, and financial stability programs. So that’s everything from Head Start to Pell Grants to adult education programs.
In addition, it determines where grocery stores go, how big school class sizes are, where public transportation is located. All of these really important services that so many people take advantage of are determined by census results.
We are serving as conveners in our communities to engage businesses, nonprofits, caring citizens, and other partners to make sure that there is a fair and accurate count.
Denver: So, what is United Way Worldwide doing to see that we get a better result?
Lindsay: We’re committed to ensuring that there is a fair and accurate count. Across the country, United Ways are actively engaged in complete count committees. They are leading public awareness campaigns, and they’re organizing community events to help people be counted.
We are uniquely suited for this work because we are in every single community. We recognize that a lack of needed federal funds will compound the needs that our communities face. So, we are serving as conveners in our communities to engage businesses, nonprofits, caring citizens, and other partners to make sure that there is a fair and accurate count.
Denver: And what about Text-to-Pledge? Tell us what that is and how that’s going to help.
Lindsay: We are really excited to launch a census Text-to-Pledge campaign. We are asking everyone to text PLEDGE to 211-211, sign up and pledge to be counted. You will receive a series of text messages about how you can organize in your community and everything you need to know about the census form.
And in addition, we’re inviting companies to join us in this effort as part of a coalition United We Vote, United We Count to engage their employees and customers to increase participation in the census.
April 1 is Census Day. This is an activation point. This is a day of action across the country to raise public awareness for people to participate in the census.
Denver: That’s fantastic because I know the difference these little prompts can make in getting people to do what they intended to do, but they just don’t get around to doing unless they’re reminded. Are there any key dates for the Census in 2020?
Lindsay: There are. What a lot of people don’t realize is the census is already underway. The enumeration started in remote Alaska in January, and the rest of the country receives a mailing between March 12 and March 20 encouraging you to fill out the census. So once the invitation arrives, you should respond for your household online, by phone or by mail, and be sure to watch your mailboxes during those days.
In addition, April 1 is Census Day. This is an activation point. This is a day of action across the country to raise public awareness for people to participate in the census. And then from May through July, census takers will begin visiting homes that have not responded to the 2020 Census. And the last day to respond is July 31.
Denver: Fantastic. And this is all part of your civic engagement initiative. Give us an example of maybe one other.
Lindsay: We’re doing a lot of work around voter engagement as well. This is an important year for our democracy, and it’s an important time for everyone to be engaged civically in their communities. So we have actually created a voter registration portal on our website to engage people and encourage them to register to vote. Folks can go to unitedway.org/voteunited. Again, that’s the unitedway.org/voteunited, and go ahead and register to vote as well.
Denver: Well, thanks, Lindsay, for this report. It was great having you here.
Lindsay: Great. Thank you so much.
Denver: I’ll be back to speak with Leon Botstein of Bard College right after this.
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