Seattle Foundation Blog

Supporting Census Outreach and Engagement

Seattle Foundation is working with community partners to ensure fair, accurate count in 2020 Census


June 15, 2018

An accurate, full count of all the people in our country every 10 years is something that is enshrined in our Constitution. It is critical because the Census provides key data for years to come that has far-reaching impact on funding, services, government representation and more in our state and community. Efforts to ensure a complete count are an initial step to address the longer-term impact of the Census. Seattle Foundation is committed to ensuring that the results of the count lead to positive, systemic change that makes our community more equitable.

Census press conference

Gary Locke and Dow Constantine prepare to talk to the press

The Census has consistently undercounted communities of color and other underrepresented groups. Yet the federal government is decreasing resources for Census outreach that may make the problem worse. Additionally, with the Census moving to an online count, it will be harder to count communities across the digital divide, homeless individuals and other underrepresented neighbors.

To that end, Seattle Foundation has been working on efforts with public, private and community partners to maximize awareness of the Census and increase outreach so that a complete and representative count will be realized in the 2020 Census. Ensuring a representative Census count reflects our commitment to racial equity and to making our community truly inclusive.

President and CEO Tony Mestres participated in an event with King County Executive Dow Constantine, Former Governor and Ambassador Gary Locke, King County Council Member Rod Dembowski and a host of community groups to announce a regional effort to increase Census awareness and participation.

“The Census is going to be used to determine the allocation of billions of dollars of federal money and even of state funds … So if we don’t have an accurate count of people, then you’re not going to get the full amount of funds that you’re entitled to, whether it’s for senior services, for nutrition programs, for law enforcement, for transportation and the list goes on and on,” said Locke, who oversaw the 2010 Census as Secretary of Commerce in the Obama Administration.

Locke added that the count has major consequences for political representation, as Congressional seats are apportioned to states based on population. “We want to make sure that we get our fair share of members of Congress so that our voices can be heard,” he said.

Mestres shared Seattle Foundation’s commitment to this issue and investing resources to increase Census awareness and participation. “Philanthropy has a role and if people of good will are attempting to make this a better community for all, then we need to go upstream and work on issues like this to make sure those voices are heard,” he said.

There have been deep concerns from many communities, legal experts and others that the recent addition of a question about citizenship could decrease participation and yield a lower count.

Seattle Foundation will further work to urge the philanthropic sector to channel resources toward increasing Census participation and building long-term civic engagement.

We are eager to work with our partners to apply resources and approaches that ensure an accurate and representative Census count in our community and state.

For more information on ways to engage, contact Aaron Robertson, managing director of Community Programs at a.robertson@seattlefoundation.org.

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