Every ten years the federal government takes a count of everyone in the U.S. The 2020 Census matters a lot to Philadelphia and your neighborhood, and we hope everyone participates. Why?
Number one: money. Census numbers are used to direct more than $1.5 trillion in federal funding from more than 300 government programs, according to new research from George Washington University. Major programs like Medicaid, Medicare, food stamps, Section 8 housing vouchers, Pell Grants, and highway construction all rely on Census data. What Philadelphia gets—and what our community gets—over the next ten years depends on how many people the Census says live here, as well as our ages, incomes, and other factors.
Number two: political power. Our state population determines how many representatives Pennsylvania gets in Congress. Results are also used to redraw district boundaries that affect who we elect for state and local offices.
This Census year, NKCDC is particularly focused on the neighborhood around our offices near the Somerset El stop. The Census classifies the area as “Hardest to Count,” meaning that we have been in the bottom 20 percent in the nation for responding to Census mail (https://www.censushardtocountmaps2020.us/).
Kensington has a large undocumented population, multiple languages, and a community that has been under a magnifying glass for two years as the City of Philadelphia, DEA, FBI and others scramble to address the opioid epidemic on our front steps. It all adds up to suspicion that the government may not have our best interests at heart.
But if we don’t respond fully and accurately to the Census, we will end up hurting ourselves in the long run. In response, NKCDC is using a grant from the Philly Counts 2020 Action Fund to hire four of our part-time Health Connectors to reach our community’s most vulnerable and underserved residents. The Connectors will build on trusting relationships with residents and work to increase our neighbors’ understanding of the Census count. Outreach will be conducted in Spanish and English.
We are purchasing a laptop computer and stand, which the Health Connectors will use in the NKCDC lobby, at events, and on door-to-door canvassing, to help individuals complete the Census. We also hosted a Census 101 event at Disney AME Church on February 22.
Our goal is for Kensington residents to feel safe in sharing their information, be counted more accurately in the 2020 Census, and be able to benefit from a better distribution of resources to our historically disinvested neighborhood.