With census deadline 2 weeks away, response rates lagging in some Minnesota communities

Crystal Bui
Updated: September 16, 2020 05:18 PM
Created: September 16, 2020 04:04 PM

There's only two weeks left before the Census 2020 deadline, and some neighborhoods in St. Paul and Minneapolis are seeing a response rate lower than 50%.

The count affects more than $675 billion in federal funds that will be allocated to communities across the country. The funding included services like housing, food assistance and public safety, which all rely on population statistics coming from the census.

"So with around the pandemic, even with how the PPE is distributed, they look at the census population and decide how much and who should get what. So when we think about recovery, I'm concerned because our ability to recover from this pandemic, as well as the civil unrest, we know we're going to need all the resources,” said Alberder Gillespie, who’s with the Minneapolis 2020 Census outreach team.

Gillespie sees Minnesota’s roughly 75% response rate as an issue.

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Some communities of color, immigrant communities, indigenous communities, rural communities, and areas with many college students and apartment buildings are seeing lower response rates; the Cedar Riverside area is one of the places that census workers are having trouble convincing people to be counted.

“The misconception is when we ask people, 'Hey have you filled out your census?' First of all, they're not even aware of what the census is about. So most of the people I'm talking to are immigrant, recent coming people, and when they hear about the census, they think that their information is going to be taken away, and that someone else is going to use it,” said Hodo Dahir, civic engagement coordinator with CAIR Minnesota.

The misinformation is making it difficult for community engagement workers like Dahir to explain that Title 13 means the information is confidential and cannot be used against someone. It won’t be passed to ICE, landlords or law enforcement. And if information is leaked, the person leaking the information faces prison time and/or a fine of up to $250,000.

Without an accurate count, cities will go the next decade without the proper resources needed to meet residents’ needs.

There’s still time to fill out the census before the deadline at the end of September. You can do so here. Or if there isn’t a computer or limited access to the Internet, you can call 844-330-2020. Calls are taken seven days/week 6 am to 1 am

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