Michigan launches outreach for 2020 census
LANSING — The state of Michigan and nonprofits groups on Wednesday launched a $16 million outreach campaign to push people to be counted in the 2020 census, saying it will take less than 10 minutes to complete once residents start getting invitations on March 12.
Officials said the census is important because undercounting will mean that communities will get less federal funding for education, health care and other important programs. An accurate count also is crucial for determining the number of Michigan congressional seats.
Officials especially want to target more than 1.8 million of the state’s 10 million people who are hard to count, including immigrants, minorities and people living in areas with high poverty or little internet access.
About 1.2 million, or two-thirds of those at risk of being undercounted, live in 10 counties: Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Kent, Genesee, Washtenaw, Ingham, Kalamazoo, Ottawa and Saginaw.
“The census really is a 10-minute process. The forms are simple, but they are so important. Their magnitude cannot be understated,” Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist said during a news conference at the Capitol, where he was joined by Michigan’s census director, state lawmakers and others.
This is the first once-a-decade census in which most people will be encouraged to answer questions via the internet. They also can be counted by phone or mail.
From May through July, census workers will knock on the doors of homes that have not responded. In April, they will begin visiting college dorms, senior centers and others who live among large groups of people.
The campaign will advertise on TV, radio, the internet and billboards, as well as in print. Gilchrist, state Attorney General Dana Nessel and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson also will hold town hall-style events throughout the state.
In 2010, Michigan had a 78% self-complete response rate. Officials are hoping for an 82% response rate this year.
Donna Murray-Brown, president and CEO of the Michigan Nonprofit Association, which is partnering with the state, said the education campaign is especially important because there likely will be less follow-up from the U.S. government with households that do not respond. She cited federal “funding challenges” and said there will be fewer Census Bureau workers.
The agency has said it does not need as many workers this year because of technological advances, such as the ability of workers to collect information on their mobile devices.
While the U.S. Supreme Court last year rejected a Trump administration attempt to add a citizenship question to the form, Michigan officials acknowledged some people may still be hesitant to respond.
“This is why we’re partnering with communities and trusted messengers to talk directly to folks across Michigan that live here,” said Statewide Census Director Kerry Ebersole Singh. “Every Michigander we want to count, and we want to make sure they turn in those forms before April 30. I think we’ve just got to keep educating and engaging folks and reminding folks of the importance of this work.”