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Michigan launching largest effort in state history to promote 2020 census

Be Counted

Unprecedented statewide multimedia education campaign and series of
town halls will highlight the importance
of completing the census, dispel myths and maximize participation

LANSING – Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II, Michigan Assistant Secretary of State Heaster Wheeler, state legislators, Michigan Statewide Census Director Kerry Ebersole Singh and leaders with the Michigan Nonprofit Association announced today the kickoff of “Be Counted,” the largest campaign in state history to promote participation in the 2020 census.

“The census matters because it’s an opportunity for our state to show our strength in numbers,” Gilchrist said. “Each neighborhood and city is built upon the strong foundation of the people who live there. That’s why we are visiting communities around the state to remind everyone to ‘Be Counted.’”

Highlighting today’s campaign launch is that completing the census is more convenient than ever by mail, in person and – for the first time – by phone and online, Wheeler noted. In 2010, 78% of the state’s population completed the census. Campaign officials want to achieve 82% participation in 2020.

“The census numbers affect everyone in Michigan, including seniors, students, kids, parents, businesses and communities, so we all need to do all we can to ensure we encourage everybody we know to complete the census,” Wheeler said.

As part of today’s campaign kickoff, officials announced that Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson will join Gilchrist in hosting a statewide series of “Be Counted” 2020 Census Town Halls. Town halls are scheduled from 4-5:30 p.m. for:

  • Monday, March 2, at Detroit’s Second Ebenezer Church, 14601 DeQuindre St.
  • Tuesday, March 3, at the Macomb Intermediate School District, 44001 Garfield Road in Macomb County’s Clinton Township, and
  • Additional locations and dates still to be determined in Canton, Dearborn, Flint, Grand Rapids, Jackson, Kalamazoo, Lansing, northern Michigan, Saginaw and Ypsilanti. Nessel hosted a census town hall Feb. 17 with Singh and Oakland County officials in Pontiac.

The Michigan Legislature in an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote has allocated an unprecedented $16 million to help with outreach and preparation for Michigan residents’ participation in the 2020 census. The campaign is a collaboration between the State of Michigan, U.S. Census Bureau and the Michigan Nonprofit Association. With the support of the Council of Michigan Foundations, additional funding for the MNA effort comes from more than 40 foundations throughout Michigan.

“There’s a lot at stake for the 2020 census and there is a clear need for outreach, communication, coordination and organizing to ensure a fair and complete count in Michigan,” said Michigan Nonprofit Association President and CEO Donna Murray-Brown.

“Communities are at risk of losing essential revenue for programs and services relied on by all Michigan residents,” Murray-Brown said. “Nonprofits are keenly aware of the negative impact an undercount will have on their communities, and that they will need to find ways to make up for the shortfalls.”

Statewide, more than 1.8 million residents are estimated to be hard to count in 2020, as measured by census tracts with high poverty, low access to the internet or other challenges that depress participation in the decennial count (see below for the list of top 10 Michigan counties most at risk of being undercounted).

“The 2020 census form includes nine questions and takes less than 10 minutes to complete – but those 10 minutes can benefit Michigan for the next 10 years,” Singh said. “Our goal is to inform every person and organization about what they need to know to make sure that all Michiganders are counted and keep their tax dollars in the Mitten State.”

Michigan’s education push will use traditional and ethnic/minority-owned media such as radio, TV and newspaper ads, direct mail and outdoor billboards, town halls and public forums, in addition to digital channels such as email, mobile and social media. Census campaign officials will also establish question-and-answer centers around the state at libraries and offices of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. The aim is to communicate the importance of completing the census, dispel myths and maximize participation.

“Those with the most to lose from an undercount are the hardest to count, including communities of color, immigrants, young children, people experiencing homelessness and those traditionally served by nonprofits,” said Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services (ACCESS) President and CEO Hassan Jaber, who also is co-chair of the Michigan Nonprofit Complete Count Committee.

“For example, in Michigan nearly 11% of the population under 5 years old lives in a hard-to-count community,” said Jaber, whose ACCESS organization in Dearborn is the largest Arab American community nonprofit in the U.S.

Many of the hardest-to-count individuals live in rural areas where there has been a significant shift in the demographics that may be missed in the 2020 census count, noted state Sen. Jim Stamas, R-Midland, whose 10-county district includes sparsely populated portions of Northeast Michigan.

“An accurate census count is critical as it determines how much funding Michigan communities will receive through 2030 for key services such as public safety, health care, education, roads and infrastructure,” said Stamas, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee. “An inaccurate count would affect the lives of Michigan families for the next 10 years because there are no recounts.”

Stamas, Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich, D-Flint, state Rep. Julie Calley, R-Portland, and state Rep. Tyrone Carter, D-Detroit, are among those leading the Legislature’s bipartisan 2020 census statewide strategies.

In 2016, Michigan received nearly $30 billion in federal funding, including $1.1 billion for highway planning and construction, $16 billion for health programs, $5 billion for education, $2.3 billion for food assistance programs and $1.5 billion for housing assistance.

“In Michigan, 42% of the state’s budget relies on federal funding that is distributed to Michigan communities annually based on census data,” Calley said. “The census count is also used to distribute congressional representation, and Michigan is considered likely to lose a seat next year.”

Carter said he is working with Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and city leaders to boost census engagement and reverse Detroit’s 60-year population decline. Detroit officials plan to raise $3 million to increase participation this year in a city that is considered one of the hardest to count in the nation.

“In 2010, only 64% of Detroit residents responded to the census, down from 70% in 2000 and below the nationwide average of 74%,” Carter said. “We can – and must – do better.”

If even 3% of Detroiters don’t get counted (approximately 20,000 people), Detroit could lose as much as $1 billion over the next 10 years.

In general, data show African Americans “are less likely to respond to the census because many feel the government does not benefit them or work for them,” said Carter, who is serving his first term representing the 6th House District that covers a portion of the city of Detroit, Ecorse and River Rouge. “Our challenge is convincing these folks that failing to complete the census is not an option because it harms our neighborhoods and hurts our people.”

Under current funding figures, every person not counted puts at risk an estimated $3,000 of federal funds per person, per year not coming to Flint for the next 10 years, Ananich said.

“Without the government funding, communities would turn to already stretched-thin philanthropy and nonprofits to fill the void,” he said. “We cannot leave any federal funding on the table – there’s too much on the line for us to let that happen.”

Nonprofits like the Community Foundation of Greater Flint that have awarded nonprofit organizations in his Flint and Genesee County district over $300,000 in grant money for census outreach should be commended for their commitment to an accurate census count, Ananich said.

“Local nonprofits are going to be instrumental to Flint’s ‘get out the count’ efforts, particularly among hard-to-count populations,” Ananich said. “We’re proud to partner with them and thank them for their support. Our message is simple: Everyone in Flint wins if everyone in Flint is counted. And that goes the same for each community in Michigan.”

The top 10 counties in Michigan most at risk of being undercounted represent 1.2 million individuals or 65% of all the hard to count/less likely to respond people in Michigan:

County followed by the Estimated Population at Risk of Being Undercounted

Wayne: 384,357
Oakland: 211,507
Macomb: 145,808
Kent: 120,262
Genesee: 78,964
Washtenaw: 72,053
Ingham: 60,887
Kalamazoo: 51,792
Ottawa: 45,776
Saginaw: 37,242

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Contact: Mike Nowlin
Cell: 989-450-0855