Census Outreach Efforts to Minority Communities Rev Up

By Zettler Clay IV
Maryland Newsline
Friday, March 5, 2010



SILVER SPRING, Md. - Rep. Donna Edwards spearheaded a full-court press on full participation in the 2010 Census, citing the need to include minority communities that have had explosive growth over the past 10 years.


Edwards (D-4th- Md.) met with community leaders, organizers and census officials Friday at the Silver Spring Library to emphasize the importance of accurate representation in this year’s census.



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“As an elected official, it’s very important to serve our constituents,” said Edwards, who represents large portions of Montgomery and Prince George’s counties. “How can we serve them all if they are not accounted for in the system?”


An accurate count would enable counties to better qualify for federal funds, improve school systems and spur job creation, Edwards said.


“I don’t want to say that this is political,” said Edwards, who is up for re-election this year. “Hospitals, law enforcement, schools, libraries, firefighters, all these groups are affected by this.”


The U.S. Department of Commerce has been reaching out to the minority community since 2008, said Regional Director Fernando Armstrong.


He said the Department of Commerce in January launched an advertising campaign targeting Hispanic and Asian communities. Armstrong said he’s never seen a stronger reaction.


“This is my fourth census, and I have not seen before this level of interest and ownership from minority communities,” he said. “I think people are realizing that there is a lot at stake when there is an inaccurate and incomplete census.”


Case De Maryland and the Maryland Department of Planning, among others, have joined in on the outreach efforts. The state has spent about $12,000 plus transportation costs on the outreach program, Capital News Service reported.


The census determines the distribution of more than $400 billion annually of government funding for community services, as well how many seats each state will have in Congress.


Title I funds, for example, are allocated for public schools, based on low-achieving and low-income demographics. There are many schools that are underfunded in Prince George’s County because some members of the population aren’t reflected in the record, Edwards said.


“There are a lot of African immigrants” in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties as well, she said, who need to be counted. “There’s no way we can best serve them if they are not accounted for.”


Armstrong said that since citizen status is not a question on the survey, that shouldn’t be a concern.


Census questionnaires will be mailed out the week of March 15. Census workers will follow up with visits to households that do not return the forms.


On April 10, volunteers and census workers will visit communities where participation is sparse, with paraphernalia, music and giveaways to urge people to send their questionnaires back.


“We are going to go really crazy to reach out,” Armstrong said.

Special Report front published: April ??, 2010

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