THE 2020 CENSUS MATTERS TO VIRGINIA’S CHILDREN AND LOCALITIES

March 6, 2019

As Virginia counties prepare for the 2020 Census, VACo has joined forces with Voices for Virginia’s Children to share information with our members to help ensure a successful count of all county residents. An introductory message from Voices for Virginia’s Children about the importance of the Census and VACo’s partnership with Voices is below. Look for more information about the Census in forthcoming editions of County Connections!

Every 10 years, the United States Census Bureau carries out a count, mandated by the Constitution, of the nation’s residents. The Census is supposed to count every person living in the United States. The next decennial census begins on April 1, 2020, and local governments in Virginia have a critical role to play.

Young children (0-4) are undercounted at a higher rate than any other group. Targeted public education and outreach efforts can ensure a more complete and accurate count of the commonwealth’s hard-to-count populations. There are several hard-to-count populations: children under age 5, people of color, low-income communities, certain rural communities, and complex families.

Data from the 2020 Census is extremely important because it will impact all of us and the programs and funding on which localities and their residents rely. An undercount in the 2020 Census could have a negative impact on more than $5 billion in annual federal funding that helps Virginia’s residents. It will influence decisions made by the public and private sectors, such as where to build schools or locate new businesses. The census count also informs how many representatives serve Virginia in Congress over the next ten years.

Statewide child advocacy organization Voices for Virginia’s Children is partnering with VACo to provide information and resources that will help localities ensure all their residents are counted — in particular, young children. Voices’ Executive Director Margaret Nimmo Holland is a member of the governor’s Complete Count Commission, which can serve as a model for localities to create complete count committees. The purpose of the local committees is to organize education, awareness, and outreach efforts in local areas.

Reaching hard-to-count groups will require efforts over the next year at the federal, state, and local levels, as well as coordination among public and private sectors. Residents of your localities need to understand why being counted matters to them, and we need to communicate clearly that the information shared in the census cannot be used by other government agencies. Because the 2020 Census is the first time the U.S. Census Bureau will use an internet-first approach, internet access is another barrier to achieving a complete count in some localities.

Over the next year, Voices will provide its partners with information targeted at reaching out to families of young children and other hard-to-count populations, and Voices’ staff is available to help local governments with census communications and outreach efforts. To learn more about Voices for Virginia’s Children and the efforts to ensure a complete count, go to vakids.org/2020-census.

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