By Moné Holder
Can you imagine living in Jacksonville without funding to build more community services including fire stations, schools, clinics, and hospitals? Or imagine driving 40 minutes to work every day because there are no jobs close to where you live?
Now, imagine that you can help build fire stations, schools, clinics, hospitals, and jobs near you by simply answering a few questions: the 2020 census.
Every 10 years, the census counts every person living in the United States to gather the data needed to inform critical decisions that will affect our community for the next decade.
Census data is used to distribute hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funding for:
- Helping businesses decide where to put new facilities and jobs
- Pell grants for college-bound students
- Planning for hospitals, nursing homes, clinics, and the location of other health services
- Determining how congressional districts are drawn and how much representation our community will have in Congress
- Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA) planning and affordable housing
The census is a gateway to equal resources, fair and inclusive policy and the enforcement of the City of Jacksonville, but only when the numbers are accurate and every resident participates. Simply put, the more accurate Duval County’s count, the more financial resources and representation residents get.
Receiving enough federal funds is critical for the most vulnerable families that need public-funded programs to survive. Minimum wage workers, people with disabilities, and low-income families with children under 5 years old, the majority of whom are people of color, — are among the people that need to be counted the most but, ironically, are at higher risk of being missed in the census. This can negatively impact how resources are distributed to the people and places that need them most.
According to the George Washington Institute, in Florida, the state loses about $1,445 per resident, per year in federal funds for every resident who is not counted in the census. That money adds up fast. For every thousand uncounted residents, the state loses $1.4 million federal dollars per year — and we will have to get by with less funds until the next decade.
The census affects so many aspects of our lives and residents of Jacksonville can not afford to miss out on their share. Therefore, it is critical for black and brown communities to complete the census.
Two weeks ago, Eric H. Holder, Jr., the 82nd Attorney General of the United States joined the New Florida Majority (NewFM) to discuss the census. He said a few things that really resonated with me. He said that we need a fair and accurate count in 2020 and, if we do it correctly, we will truly have a voice in our community.
You can build your voice right now in your neighborhood by forming a Complete Count Committee (CCC), which is made up of individuals and organizations dedicated to spreading the word about the importance of the 2020 census in their communities.
NewFM has partnered with several organizations to raise money to support a complete and accurate census count. The money raised will help pay for a more complete count with the help of community, faith-based and nonprofit organizations in Florida.
In addition, NewFM will open our offices across the state to assist Floridians with completing the census and canvassing our neighborhoods to inform residents of what’s at stake. We will also offer informational sessions with U.S. Census Bureau employees.
Through collaborative partnerships with organizations; community leaders can reach the shared goal of counting everyone in 2020.
The official “Census Day” is April 1, 2020, and every home will have received an invitation to participate in the 2020 Census by that date. Once the invitation arrives, you can respond for your home in one of three ways: online, by phone, or by mail.
We must live with the numbers from the census until 2030. Receiving a fair and accurate count during the 2020 census is essential to ensure that our communities — especially communities of color — do not miss out on the opportunities and resources that Jacksonville needs and deserves.
Moné Holder is the Senior Program Director of Policy, Advocacy & Research for the New Florida Majority, located in Jacksonville.