Census 2020: It’s a big deal

Betsy Hammer
Oct 23, 2019

Here at the Minnesota Budget Project, we rely on the Census Bureau and its excellent data because it helps us better understand poverty, health care, employment, and housing. In fact, we recently published several blogs that used Census data that illustrate that while Minnesota ranks well among states when looking at the big picture, the benefits of our economy are not reaching all Minnesotans.  

Next year, 2020, is a big year for the Census. Every ten years, the Census takes a count of every person living in the United States. This information is then used to allocate Congressional representation and federal dollars, so the implications of the count reverberate well into the future.

The Census is an essential part of our democracy, and every person who lives here counts and contributes to our vibrant communities. The size of the Congressional delegation that represents us in Washington, D.C. is determined by the Census; since the number of representatives remains constant at 435, changes in state populations (as determined by the Census) can result in some states gaining additional representatives while others lose representatives. A complete Census count is important to make sure Minnesota voices are accurately and adequately heard.

In addition to the impact on our democratic representation, the Census count is very important for public investments in our state. Significant amounts of federal funding are allocated to Minnesota based on Census data. In the FY 2018-19 biennium, about 30 percent – or about $25 billion – of the state’s biennial budget was funded by federal money. And Census data determines distribution levels for many federal funding streams that help Minnesotans stay healthy, safe, and housed, including:

  • Medicaid and State Children’s Health Insurance
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, also known as food stamps) and the National School Lunch Program
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF, also known as the Minnesota Family Investment Program or MFIP)
  • Section 8 Housing vouchers and Indian Housing Block Grants
  • Head Start
  • Vocational Rehabilitation
  • Crime Victim Assistance
  • Community Development Block Grants
  • Water and Waste Disposal Systems for Rural Communities
  • Highway planning and construction

The Census count is about equity, inclusion, fair representation, and equitable distribution of resources. Nonprofits have a role in promoting community participation and building people power, and nonprofits also benefit from the valuable data that the Census Bureau provides. Census data helps the sector analyze trends, find ways to better reach our audiences, and maximize impact.

The Minnesota Council of Nonprofits has some excellent resources and tips to help nonprofits gear up for the Census. Check out their Census webpage for some great ideas about how you can get involved, and for information about grants of up to $5,000 to promote Census participation. Grant applications are due on October 30, and organizers must target historically undercounted communities like immigrants, communities of color, disability communities, seniors, urban and rural tribal members, renters, young children, and communities in Greater Minnesota. Here are some examples of what organizations can do with their Census grants:

  • Host a panel discussion open to your surrounding community or for specific constituents.
  • Place a table in front of your office, give out swag, and encourage community members to fill out their Census forms or commit to be counted.
  • Use a nonpartisan canvassing app to go door knocking in your community.
  • Host a block party about the Census.