Michigan households now are receiving 2020 Census forms in the mail — and while the goal is to count everyone, there is concern that some children may be overlooked. The suspension of field operations for two weeks to figure out how to keep census workers safe won't interfere with individuals filling out the forms.
Millions of federal dollars are at risk if every child isn't counted, and nearly 2 million children age five and younger were missed in the 2010 Census.
Children of color and Latinos are especially vulnerable to under-counting.
Christine Sauve, director of the Welcoming Michigan initiative for the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center, notes there is some distrust in the immigrant community about the use of census data, but she says the benefits are too great to not be counted.
"If there's fear or concern about interacting with representatives from the government, it might be better to complete your census form early and not trigger a visit from a census worker in person," she stresses.
Michigan loses about $1,800 in federal funds per year for each person missed. So far, more than 11 million households have responded to the census.
Sarah Brannon, managing attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union's Voting Rights Project, says the census has some of the strongest privacy protections in federal law, and census workers face stiff penalties for failure to maintain the confidentiality of census data.
"It is a confidentiality pledge that you have to take, that you're sworn for life to protect any information you might see during the course of your employment," she explains. "And it is punishable up to five years in prison and a fine of $250,000, or both. So, it is a very serious pledge that they take."
Deborah Stein, network director of Partnership for America's Children, notes that census figures determine political representation as well as funding for child care, medical care, housing and other services that give children their best start in life.
"If you want to make sure there's more funding for your schools and for all the services your child needs, make sure you count everybody from birth on in your household, whether you're related to them or not," she stresses. "Because the consequences of missing a child lasts a decade, and that's most of their childhood."
Census forms can be completed by mail, over the phone, or online at 2020census.gov
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