Although the counting for Census 2020 does not start for another year, Mayor Mike Duggan kicked off the Census 2020 campaign Monday to get Detroiters ready to participate in the census. The reason: During the 2010 Census, the City of Detroit had the lowest participation rate of any major city in the country and reversing that trend is paramount for city leaders.

The reasons are simple. Each person who is not counted means the city loses out on $1,800 per year per person for a decade. With 800,000 people in Michigan considered hard-to-reach, getting an accurate count in Detroit goes a long way for the state, too. Those hard-to-reach people are less likely to fill out a form online or answer the door when a census worker knocks. For them, a different strategy is necessary.   

“The best person to get residents to fill out a form isn’t necessarily the government. It’s people they trust. It’s people they know,” said Mayor Duggan.

To get to hard-to-reach people in Detroit, Victoria Kovari, executive director for the Detroit 2020 census campaign, has a plan.

  1. Recruiting neighborhood ambassadors for every Census tract in the city. Ambassadors will attend block club meetings and organize events to get neighbors talking about the Census. They will also be helping in Census Assistance Centers, answering questions in the 150 centers the city plans on opening.
  2. Hire paid canvassers. The city will be hiring 1,000 canvassers starting this fall to go door-to-door in all 297 city Census tracts, making sure people have taken the survey.
  3. Educate and motivate. Building off the campaign launch, Kovari’s office will be sending people to every neighborhood group and block club meeting they are invited to during the next year.

To make plan work, Kovari emphasized the need to have broad community participation.

“It’s up to you, it’s up to me, it’s up to all of us to get this right,” she said.

One area those education efforts will focus on is what the census means for the city. While many people know census data is used for drawing new Congressional districts and for determining how many representatives Michigan has in the United States House of Representatives, there are many programs that use the data to determine where to spend their money. From health care to road funding to Head Start, giving people facts about how census data impacts their neighborhoods is important. 

For Leah Hill, founder of Kindred Media and Entertainment, this will be her first census as an adult and she wants to make sure her age cohort understands how important it is to take the 10-minute online census survey.

“There’s really no reason to not take 10 minutes out of your day to make sure our education system is funded, that people have access to health care, and people are well fed,” she said.

Veteran Census participants and volunteers were also on hand to encourage people to participate. Bishop Edgar L. Vann of Second Ebenezer church is one of those veteran Census volunteers, starting during the 1980 Census, when he was young pastor in his ministry career. He noted that in the Census, everyone is counted as one, regardless of race, religion, color, or creed. For that reason, he trumpeted Mayor Duggan’s call to action.

“What I ask you to do is to go to enlist and become a part of what’s going on because the best person to reach a person is the person that somebody already knows.”

If you are a City of Detroit resident and want to learn more about the Be Counted Detroit 2020 campaign, visit BeCountedDetroit.org.

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