Census 2020: Into the Home Stretch

Maryland is Looking Strong…But There is Still Time to Make a Difference!

Planning Assistance in Action

by Kristin Fleckenstein, Director of Public Affairs and Kristen E. Humphrey, MLA, Local Assistance and Training Planner 

Don’t Delay, Respond Today! With the 2020 Census deadline just days away, the Maryland Department of Planning (Planning) remains in high gear to ensure a complete count of all Marylanders. Maryland currently has achieved a 70.5 percent self-response rate that exceeds the 2010 Census total count of 60.5 percent. Maryland’s total count, which also includes households counted by U.S. Census Bureau enumerators, currently stands at  97.9 percent.   

While the ability to complete the Census online has played a major role in this accomplishment, the foundation of this success truly lies in the efforts of the statewide and local Complete Count Committees (CCCs) and other partners who have worked tirelessly with Planning to both engage and increase the participation of communities across the state.   

COVID-19 brought with it the need to shift to methods of reaching people that are safe during a pandemic. These have included “contactless” means of communication, such as social media, radio, television, bus signage, and digital campaigns, as well as through online gatherings, such as faith/religious services and community events. As restrictions have eased, smaller in-person gatherings and events have been attended, as permitted by and following Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines. The goal has remained the same – to make Marylanders aware of the Census, and encourage them to submit their completed surveys, whether online, by phone or by mail. 

Our mission from the start has been to ensure that everyone residing in Maryland understands  just how important the Census is to the everyday lives of everyone in our state. To achieve this understanding and motivate individuals and communities to participate, we have sought to address the questions, “what does the data collected actually do” and, “how much money is at stake?” in ways that are tangible and meaningful to residents.  

Census data is essential to funding a multitude of programs and services provided by state and local governments alike. Every person not counted represents approximately $18,250 in missed federal funding over the course of 10 years. In fact, the state missed out on approximately $1 billion in funding over the last decade based on an undercounting of Marylanders in the 2010 Census.  

The latest research indicates there is $1.5T in future Census-derived funding at stake with Maryland set to receive over $16 billion annually. The math is simple: the more people who complete the Census, the more funding Maryland receives in support of a myriad of programs and services for those who live here. We must do all that we can to guarantee the maximum level of funding. 

Planning is working with the CCCs of each county and is having great success collaborating with the trusted leaders of business, nonprofit and faith communities. We have created toolkits for each of these organizations to facilitate their outreach efforts. We have also developed toolkits for members of Maryland’s General Assembly and have been pleased to see how useful and effective these are in reaching out to constituents.  

We have also cultivated our Census Champions program honoring individuals and groups around the state who have gone above and beyond in spreading the word regarding the Census. These ambassadors are making the difference in many hard-to-count areas to improve the self-response rates in low-performing Census tracts. There is still time to nominate someone in your community as a Census Champion. To read about the nearly 70 individuals and organizations who are Census Champions or to download the nomination form, be sure to visit the Maryland Census 2020 website.   

A self-response rate of 70.5 percent and ranking number 10 in the nation is no small accomplishment — it would be huge in any “normal” Census cycle, let alone during a global pandemic. Even more importantly, while we currently stand at 97.9 percent with enumeration (that is, the self response rate of 70.5 percent plus in-person follow up), our goal remains to have as many Marylanders counted as possible. To achieve this goal, we will continue to promote the Census and its importance right up to the September 30th deadline.  

With only days remaining until we reach the finish line, we hope that you too will help get the word out through your own social media outlets, emails, conversations and other means. Even one person spreading the word and encouraging others to complete the Census could bring hundreds of thousands of additional dollars to communities in need that they otherwise might not receive.  

So, please remind your colleagues, friends, family and acquaintances that there are three ways to respond — online, via phone or by mail — and that after all, “it takes only 10 minutes, yet can impact the next ten years!”  

For more information about Census 2020, and how you can still help Maryland achieve a complete count, contact Kristin Fleckenstein, Director of Public Affairs at kristin.fleckenstein@maryland.gov; or Randall Nixon, Associate Director, Maryland Census at Randall Nixon, Associate Director, Maryland Census at randall.nixon@maryland.gov or (443) 603-4882.   

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