The COVID-19 pandemic has spurred a significant increase in the need for resources critical to community health: food assistance programs, health care, and housing services — all dependent on funding related to census data.
That’s why it’s more important than ever to complete the U.S. Census 2020. It’s not too late as the U.S. Census Bureau has extended the completion deadline. It takes 10 minutes to answer the 10 or so questions online, by phone, or mail.
“I am encouraging everyone to take the census because it truly helps us keep our communities healthy,” said Tom Hanenburg, interim president for Kaiser Permanente Northern California. “Results help determine how billions of dollars in federal funding flow to programs including Medi-Cal, free school lunches, and housing assistance — all of which are more critically needed than ever due to COVID-19 and its impact on the economy.”
More Than a Population Count
The census is conducted every 10 years by the U.S. government to determine the population of all people living in the 50 states, District of Columbia, and 5 U.S. territories.
Accurate census data informs the allocation of more than $675 billion in annual federal funding that aids hundreds of programs for low-income and underserved communities, schools, health services, infrastructure, and emergency preparedness.
Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), state children’s health insurance, college grant money for low-income students, and substance abuse treatment are just a handful of services whose funding is based on census information.
Census data is also used to determine the number of state congressional representatives who advocate for their local communities when voting on federal issues.
Every Voice Matters
The COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected everyone, but it has hit racial and ethnic minorities harder, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The need for social services provided by Kaiser Permanente’s community partners has spiked during the health crisis among these populations and beyond.
“The need is growing enormously in all communities, but especially among the underserved, including people of color and low-wage workers who have continued working during the pandemic,” said Yvette Radford, vice president of External and Community Affairs at Kaiser Permanente Norther California. “It’s incredibly important to get an accurate census count because it means more funding for crucial community organizations.”
For every person not counted, the community loses an average of $20,000 in federal funding over 10 years. The people most likely to get sick with COVID-19 are also most likely to be undercounted, including African American and Latino communities, renters, people living in multi-housing units, and low-income populations. Historically, children under 5 and homeless individuals have also been undercounted.
As a nonprofit organization focused on advancing total health, Kaiser Permanente relies on census data to better serve its communities through expanding access of critical programs, creating safer environments, and improving its services and products.
“When we think of the needs of the communities we serve, we know that being healthy goes beyond the doctor’s office,” Radford explained. “Our members can’t be healthy if they don’t have access to food, basic economic security, a safe environment, and a roof over their heads. An undercount in the census impacts our members and our communities’ ability to live healthy lives.”
Completing the census is yet another tool to support others during this difficult time and in the future. To fill out the census and learn more, visit 2020census.gov.