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Richmond Area Census Office Calls for Increased Participation for 2020 Census

Man in suit speaking
Eric Lin of the Virginia Complete Count Commission says 2020 census will be particularly challenging.  (Photo: Alan Rodriguez Espinoza/VPM)

*VPM intern Alan Rodriguez Espinoza reported this story

The Richmond Area Census Office held an open house event Thursday to encourage increased participation in the 2020 census. 

Mayor Levar Stoney said that for every individual that goes uncounted, the commonwealth could lose out on $20,000 over the next ten years. Johnny Day, manager for the Richmond Area Census Office, says an accurate count ensures the local government’s ability to support the community.

“That’s how we base the representation in our federal congress. That’s how we base all of the funding from the federal government that gets redistributed back to the Commonwealth of Virginia, and it gives us a good idea of where to put the roads, where to put the schools,” Day said.

Rodney Robinson is an educator at the Richmond Juvenile Detention Center and the 2019 National Teacher of the Year. He says an accurate census count is a good way to ensure students get the funding and resources they need.

“Making sure they’re counted could mean more money for a mental health counselor or a school counselor to ensure that they're on the right track and they're getting that trauma-informed care that so many of our students need,” Robinson said.

Eric Lin of the Virginia Complete Count Commission says the 2020 census, in particular, will be “challenging.” While the 2010 census received a 74% response rate nationwide, Lin says the 2020 response rate is expected to be lower. Day says part of the challenge will be the new online option for participating in the census

“The elderly community might not be familiar with these devices and might not have ready access to them, so they might be weary of doing it on an iPhone or a tablet or a computer,” Day said. “Then the other communities in some of the counties that don’t have good broadband, we want to make sure that we can reach out to those communities and serve them too.”

The aging and rural communities are two of the communities that the Virginia Complete Count Commission has designated as “hard to count” in an effort to better engage them on the census. Other hard to count communities include the homeless community, youth under five years old, and communities of color.

Day says one of the biggest obstacles the census in the Richmond area will face is understaffing. In the case of increasing accessibility to the census for immigrant communities, Day says staffing can help.

“If we can get the right people to apply from those communities, we’ll solve our language problems by getting people from those communities to speak those languages,” Day said.

Households nationwide will begin receiving information regarding how to participate in the census in March. The 2020 census count will take place on April 1. Virginians will be able to complete the census by mail, over the phone or online.