Parishes, communities urged to participate in 2020 U.S. Census
March 10, 2020
HOUSTON — For every man, woman or child not counted in the 2020 Census, Harris County stands to lose $10,000 in federal money over 10 years for each person missing in the tally.
That translates into millions of dollars in lost services and opportunities for the community as a whole, according to Houston In Action, a coalition of more than 50 city and county organizations working together to ensure a complete count of the region’s population.
Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston is already implementing a plan to encourage clients, many of them immigrants who may be reluctant to be counted, to fill out a Census form, said Catholic Charities President Cynthia N. Colbert, MSW.
“Our clients need to know that the Census Bureau does not reveal an individual’s data to anyone,” said Colbert. “That includes federal agencies, immigration authorities, law enforcement and courts of law.”
To continue that education, Catholic Charities is organizing an event, “Faithful Citizenship: Be Counted,” on March 24 for parish and community representatives who can spread the word in their neighborhoods about the need to participate in the Census. Previously scheduled to be held at St. Dominic Village, the workshop is now set to be held via Facebook Live.
Colbert said this is also a matter of Catholic social teaching, which includes respecting life and dignity of the human person; call to family, community and participation in society; rights and responsibilities; option for the poor and vulnerable; dignity of work and rights of workers; solidarity; and care for God’s creation to protect people and the planet.
“Catholic social teaching says that we have a right and a duty to participate in society, seeking together the common good and well-being of all, especially the poor and vulnerable,” Colbert said. “We pray that individuals living in the greater Houston area, regardless of their status, will stand up to be counted during the Census.”
Among the scheduled presenters is Sister Maureen O’Connell, Archdiocese director for the Secretariat of Social Concerns.
Sister O’Connell said, “We understand that people may be fearful of giving information. But we all have the responsibility, along with using prudent judgment, to be counted in the Census.”
The 2020 U.S. Census launches on April 1, opening a once-every-decade season in which every individual living in America is counted. Results from the Census are crucial, directly related to political representation and how tax dollars are allocated to communities for schools, healthcare, housing and other matters that affect quality of life, said Ana Arredondo, U.S. Census Partnership specialist.
Starting on March 12, residences will receive an invitation in the mail to participate in the 2020 Census. On average, it takes 10 minutes to fill out the Census form, and people can respond via the internet or by phone.
If people do not respond by late March, they will receive a printed questionnaire in the mail by early April, she said. If no response has been received in April, census takers will start visiting homes in May.
James Barrette, secretariat director for pastoral and educational ministries, said he helped organize a Complete Count Committee within the Archdiocese to share with ministries the need to participate.
“It’s easy, it’s safe and it’s important,” Barrette said. “The count impacts federal monies that go through city, county and state programs. It affects roads, schools and multiple aspects in our community.”
One of the most undercounted populations is infants, he said.
“Parents count themselves and their older children, but forget to count the baby in their arms. That child will start school over the next 10 years before the next Census and we need to be prepared,” Barrette said.
Father Italo Dell’Oro, CRS, secretariat director for clergy formation and chaplaincy services, has been meeting with pastors in Hispanic Ministry, Vietnamese Ministry, Ministry for Catholics of African Descent, Filipino, Korean, Chinese, Polish and Indian Ministry on the importance of those communities being counted.
“The episcopal and ethnic vicars met with the Census 2020 team to discuss how we priests can assist our faithful during the upcoming Census 2020,” he said.
Father Dell’Oro also spoke in Spanish on a public service announcement video by the U.S. Census titled “Todos Contamos,” meaning We All Count.
“Faithful Citizenship: Be Counted” will be held on Tuesday, March 24, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. via Facebook Live online. Speakers will include Sister O’Connell and Ana Arredondo of the Census Bureau. The event, originally scheduled to be held at St. Dominic Village, will now be held online.
For more information, visit CatholicCharities.org/2020Census.
What is the census?
The census is a count of every person who lives in the United States and its territories. It happens every 10 years. In early 2020, people will be asked to count everyone who lives in their home as of April 1. Responding to the 2020 Census is a chance to shape the future.
Why take the census?
Responses inform where over $675 billion is distributed each year to communities nationwide for clinics, schools, roads and more. Census data gives community leaders vital information to make decisions about building community centers, opening businesses, and planning for the future.
Responding also fulfills a civic duty because it’s mandated by the U.S. Constitution. The U.S. has counted its population every 10 years since 1790. Responses are used to redraw legislative districts and determine the number of seats a state has in the U.S. House of Representatives.
In 2020, for the first time ever, the U.S. Census Bureau will accept responses online, but its still possible to respond by phone or mail if preferred. Responding should take less time than it takes to finish a morning coffee.
Strict federal law protects all census responses. It is against the law for any Census Bureau employee to disclose or publish any census information that identifies an individual.
Learn more about the 2020 Census by visiting 2020census.gov.