Op-Ed

Participate in the Census so that our community gets its fair share | Opinion

The results of the U.S. Census determine how federal funds and political representation are distributed.
The results of the U.S. Census determine how federal funds and political representation are distributed. Getty Images

The U.S. Census Bureau was created with a ministerial mission in mind: Count every single person living in the United States each decade, regardless of age, legal status or race.

On April 1, 2020, every household across our nation will receive a survey about the residents in their home. The Constitution requires this count every 10 years to determine the fair allocation of congressional representation, as well as billions of dollars in federal funding, to Florida and the rest of the country.

The information gathered by the Census Bureau captures a snapshot of cities, states and the entire nation. The purpose of the Census is simple: collecting appropriate data on the people who live in our communities so that we can distribute federal resources for the needs of the population. From allocating billions to states and municipalities to ensuring the fair distribution of political power, the information collected by the Census Bureau will have an impact our country’s prosperity and well-being.

Thankfully, the U.S. Justice Department reversed the administration’s decision to add a question regarding one’s citizenship to the Census. The question would have discouraged an accurate count in communities like ours in South Florida. We must reiterate that the Census is not a means to do an immigration head count. It is a means to help all of our constituents with their needs regardless of their immigration status.

As a former elected official who represented the Miami-Dade County area in the Florida Legislature and Congress, I know that the 2020 Census is a high-stakes operation for Florida, with the final count set to have a significant impact on our pocketbook and political clout in Washington, D.C., for years to come. To ensure that Miami-Dade County receives the necessary funding and representation it deserves, we need all of our residents’ full participation in the 2020 Census.

One of the many ways our community is helping ensure a full and accurate count is the formation of the Miami-Dade County Census Task Force. Chaired by Commissioner Esteban L. Bovo Jr., the task force is identifying the best practices to address and curtail an undercount of hard-to-reach populations in every corner of the county. The task force seeks to encourage organizations to form community-based task forces of their own, as well as designating trustworthy leaders to help within the areas they advocate for on a daily basis.

The Miami Foundation also is dedicating its efforts to increase the county’s Census participation by investing $475,000 to share critical information and tools with nonprofits, local governments, businesses and community members about being counted. The Miami Foundation is awarding grants from $5,000 to $25,000 to nonprofit and governmental organizations with strategies for reaching communities that have historically low rates of participation in the Census.

In the private sector, many corporations have worked to ensure the integrity of the Census. Warby Parker, Lyft, Univision and others filed amicus briefs either at the trial-court level or at the Supreme Court to strip the citizenship question because of the negative impact it could have. Through its Cuenta Conmigo (Count with Me) campaign, Univision is also working to educate Hispanic Americans on the importance of the Census and the impact anything less than a full count will have on federal funding, economic opportunity and political representation.

Our community cannot afford an undercount. It is up to us to shape the future of our slice of paradise by responding to the 2020 Census. More than $675 billion in federal funds will be distributed to states and communities like ours for services and infrastructure, meaning healthcare, jobs, schools, roads and businesses. It is only when all members of the community participate that we can ensure a fair and accurate count.

Help ensure that Miami-Dade counts by shaping the future of our community for the next 10 years.

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen spent almost 30 years in Congress representing South Florida. She writes a monthly column for the Miami Herald. Send her your comments at HeraldIleana@gmail.com.

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