As the 2020 census approaches its last two months of counting U.S. citizens, collection that has largely been online will now include in-person methods.
For this reason, Dauphin County’s Complete Count Committee is ramping up efforts to get the word out this week. On Monday, they, along with the county commissioners, started the Census Week of Action. The campaign uses social media to educate people on the importance of being counted.
“We are doing well, but the goal is clearly to exceed how we did in the 2010 census,” said committee Chair Steve Deck.
As of July 30, Pennsylvania had a 65.9% self-response rate, according to the U. S. Census Bureau. In Dauphin County the rate is 64.9%, compared to a 2010 final rate of 71.4%. Harrisburg city lags behind at 44.4%, compared to a final rate of 57.6% in 2010, the bureau reports.
Deck is also the executive director of the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission (TCRPC), which focuses on economic growth and transportation in Cumberland, Dauphin and Perry counties. The organization is one of 62 members of the Complete Count Committee in Dauphin County.
This is the first time that Dauphin County has used Complete Count Committees to aid in conducting the census, Deck said. The goal is for leaders at the county level to communicate Census Bureau information and encourage participation from residents in their communities.
Responding to the census is vitally important in the allocation of federal money to the state and each county, as well as the number of representatives that Pennsylvania has in Congress, Deck said.
He believes that Dauphin County is on track to reach and hopefully surpass its final response rate from the 2010 census.
However, Harrisburg city is currently about 20% below the county’s response rate.
Allison Hill, South Allison Hill and parts of Uptown are the most difficult neighborhoods in the city to count, according to the Census Bureau.
Latino Connection, another member of the Dauphin County Complete Count Committee, has been reaching out to the area’s rapidly growing Latino community.
“I believe Dauphin County will have an undercount of this growing population,” CEO George Fernandez said.
Latino Connection has been funding around 60 digital advertising displays with census information in corner stores, bodegas and small shops in south-central Pennsylvania.
However, Fernandez still believes that fear may keep many Latinos, especially immigrants, from participating. He thinks having more people of color as census workers would help build trust in the Latino community.
“The census committee needs to find more resources to reach communities of color,” Fernandez said. “There needs to be a point of discussion that reaching people of color also has a dollar sign behind it.”
The deadline for completing the 2020 census had been extended to Oct. 31 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, just today, the Census Bureau moved up that deadline, as Director Steven Dillingham stated that the bureau now planned to finish its “field data collection” by Sept. 30.
Dauphin County’s Census week of Action runs through Aug. 7. For more information, visit https://www.dauphincounty.org/news_detail_T14_R331.php.