April is the Month of the Census, When Everyone Must Be Counted
By now you should have received a census notice in the mail. Initially, it is a letter asking you to respond online. If you do not respond to it in a few weeks – if you don’t have an online connection, or simply fear the internet – the next step is a paper questionnaire sent to you in the mail. If they still haven’t gotten a response, the Census Bureau will send someone to your door – though that final step may lag this year, thanks to the coronavirus.
In the meantime, the City of Coral Gables will be doing all it can to make sure you are counted. Why? Because allocations of federal and state resources rely upon that count, so the more the merrier. When the census was first taken in the U.S. in 1790, the idea was to get an accurate count of citizens so as to properly award seats in Congress. Today it is about the largesse that could and should come our way.
To help ensure that all Gableites participate, the city commission put together a committee comprising different community stakeholders
– including the Chamber of Commerce and the University of Miami – led by Commissioner Michael Mena. “A lot of it has just been getting the word out, by mailers and social media and even a booth at the Farmers Market on Saturdays,” says Mena. “The good thing is that a lot of institutions are independently working on it, because it is something that impacts everyone [with] funding for projects that improve everybody’s lives.”
The problem is, of course, under-counting. In the last two census counts, it was estimated that Coral Gables was under-counted by about a quarter of its population. Part of that comes from people who fear revealing personal information to the federal government – though by law that information must be kept private. Part of it comes from not understanding who can be counted, such as children, or students living in dorms at UM. “I would suspect that some of it is just lack of engagement, just people not participating,” says Mena. “That’s the world we live in.”
Mark Trowbridge, the head of the Chamber and the de-facto vice chair of the city’s committee, attributes the lack of full response to a number of factors. “Older people who live in our neighborhoods have a significant distrust for anything coming from the government,” he says. “And then you have a diverse population, where English is not the first language… Political rhetoric has been a big factor because of the residency issue.” Trowbridge says the committee has reached out to homeowner’s associations for help, has asked public schools to send home fliers and, through the Chamber, enlisted the aid of the business community.
“We have definitely had a much more proactive, engaged process than ever before,” says Trowbridge. “Sweetwater and Medley have had better percentage counts than us, so it’s really a point of pride that we do better.”
If you haven’t filled out the census yet, go to 2020census.gov.