The U.S. Census Bureau says it is relying on “trusted voices” to reach hard-to-count communities in the upcoming 2020 census.
Members of the Multicultural Council of Fort Wayne appeared ready Thursday to make their voices heard.
“The main goal is to get the word out to the community,” Raquel Kline, director of Language Services Network, said during a council meeting at Parkview Hospital Randallia attended by two-dozen people.
Kline, co-chair of the Fort Wayne Complete Count Committee, and others on the Multicultural Council discussed efforts to reach African Americans, Hispanics and refugees from Myanmar and Africa ahead of next month's start of the nationwide count.
Part of the local campaign involves translating census materials for non-English speakers. The census questionnaire will be available in 12 languages, Kline said, but Burmese is not among them. Thousands of Burmese refugees from Myanmar have resettled in Fort Wayne since the 1990s.
Kline said planning is underway for a census informational event for the “community at large.”
“I know that the time is getting closer, and it takes a lot of organization and people investing the time,” she said.
The Census Bureau will begin mailing instructions for its decennial questionnaire to households March 12. People will be able to fill out the questionnaire with a paper form and, for the first time, by phone or online.
“It's going to really help us get a better, more accurate count more quickly,” Jacqueline Beverly, a community partnership specialist for the Census Bureau, said about the expanded response options.
Beverly presented information about the census to the Multicultural Council and answered questions from its members. She told the council that it and organizations it represents are “trusted voices” for raising awareness of the census and its importance in determining congressional apportionment and the distribution of federal funds.
The census is “critical to the people that you serve so they have access not only to the services you provide but all of the other services that they need in a community,” she said.
Participation “will influence so much that happens locally. ... And that's true for the next 10 years,” Beverly said.
She listed various hard-to-count demographic groups, including children younger than 5, college students, farm workers, immigrants, people living in poverty, the homeless, renters, people with disabilities, seniors and “snowbirds” – typically retirees who maintain residences in more than one state.
Beverly said census responses would not be shared with other federal agencies. Collected data on households will be “safe, secure, private and confidential,” she said.