2020 Census invitations have been sent out in the United States, and the results will have critical implications for community health centers and funding. Once every 10 years, the U.S. Constitution mandates that the government count every single person that lives in the 50 states, Washington D.C., and the 5 U.S. territories as accurately as possible. In 2020, the census is facing several roadblocks to an accurate measure, most notably a question about citizenship (which may lead to immigrants being undercounted) and a move toward web-based data collection (which may affect the accuracy in rural regions with limited internet access).
Inaccurate census data would have enormous implications for the funding community health centers and other public health programs receive. In short, the census results affect community health funding in three key ways:
- Policy: The census results determine how many seats in the House of Representatives are delegated to each state. This could lead to dramatic shifts in political climate and, therefore, changes in public health policy.
- Federal funds: The results of the census drive decisions about how to allocate hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funding to community programs, including public health, for the next ten years. Programs affected include Medicaid, Medicare, and the funding that is allocated to community health centers.
- Community-based services: Census data provides government leaders with information about which communities (for example, rural regions) lack proper medical care and need additional services and medical facilities, like community health centers.
The census results are intended to show who we are and in which communities we work and live. Many important political decisions and billions of dollars of federal funding depend on what the census tells us about our communities. It is crucial that the census accurately measures who lives in our communities. An inaccurate picture – more specifically, an undercount – could mean less health funding for communities who desperately need it.
Responding to the Census during the COVID-19 Pandemic
In these times of uncertainty, the 2020 Census may not be top of mind for many people, but in reality, it’s now more important than ever to help communities retain or increase their federal funding. To help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, the Census Bureau has provided simple ways to respond on your own. Letters have been sent out to homes across the United States that include a unique code so you can complete the census either online or over the phone. Some homes may have received a paper questionnaire to complete first, and for those who haven’t responded online or by phone, you will receive the paper version soon. These questionnaires do include a prepaid envelope, making it simple to return your response. As a last resort, census takers will begin visiting homes in early May, but this may be delayed due to Stay-At-Home Orders. As the online and over-the-phone responses are the safest, this option will be available through July 31.
Here at HealthLinc, we are committed to improving our communities by expanding access to exceptional health care. Complete your 2020 Census today and make sure you’re counted.