By John Lynds
Mayor Martin Walsh joined a group of non-profit leaders and advocates at the East Boston Library on Bremen Street to kick-off the year-long outreach campaign to ensure a fair and complete count in the 2020 U.S. Census.
The census will be issued exactly one year from Monday, starting the decennial count that determines everything from representation in Congress, to federal funds for schools, affordable housing, infrastructure and health care programs.
“To all the partners in the room we can’t do this without you,” said Walsh Monday. “We need you to continue to be with us in this journey. The 2010 census that we had here in Massachusetts counted 617,000 people in the City of Boston. Since that time we are currently at 700,000 or over 700,000 residents. For Boston the last three censuses we’ve lost a Congressperson all three times. We had 12 at one point, then 11 and then 10 and now we have nine. The point is we have fewer people representing is in Congress. It’s so important to be counted. We need to make sure we are all counted because it determines our representation in Congress and I can’t underscore that enough. We need accurate census counts to protect our voices in Congress. Right now the investments that were made from the 2010 census were free lunches at public schools, funds for affordable housing, senior services, job training for our residents for the future. If we don’t do the count accurately we won’t get what is due to us in the City and in the Commonwealth.”
Walsh announced that the city will contribute $100,000 to support Boston’s outreach efforts by providing grants to community-based organizations here and more support to City departments.
Walsh pointed out that for every person not counted in the upcoming census equals $2,400 in lost federal money every year for the next ten years.
“Think of it? If 100,000 people are not counted that translates into 2.4 billion the state loses in federal aid over the next decade,” said Walsh.
Monday’s kick-off also highlighted a range of collaborations across the city focused on ensuring that all Boston residents are aware of the upcoming census, know why it’s important, and are prepared to participate. Next year’s Census faces unprecedented challenges, including significant underfunding of the U.S. Census Bureau, the nearly all-digital nature of the surveys, and the possible inclusion of a citizenship question.
“We have been hearing threats from Washington to use the 2020 Census as another weapon to intimidate residents and weaken our democracy,” added Walsh. “This is unacceptable at a time when our representation and federal funding are at stake. We recently appointed a census liaison within my administration and are kicking off this outreach campaign a year in advance to make sure every resident of Boston is counted, because every resident of Boston counts.”
Walsh said that data from the 2010 Census determine around $16 billion every year in federal spending for critical programs such as Medicaid, Medicare, affordable housing initiatives, Title I education funding, and infrastructure in Massachusetts.
At the kick-off many speakers commented said there are multiple hard-to-count populations that reside in Massachusetts that historically have made a complete census count difficult. This is due in part to the state’s population of recent immigrants, renters, college students, and other hard-to-count populations. Boston is the ninth hardest-to-count city among the largest 100 cities nationwide, according to a recent report by Boston Indicators and the Boston Foundation.
“The library’s mission is to support this work of civic engagement,” said David Leonard, president of the Boston Public Library Monday. “We will continue being a trusted information provider, a safe space, and help everyone be counted, whether you arrived yesterday, ten years ago, or have been here for many, many generations.”
Chair of the Massachusetts Census Equity Fund Alexie Torres said trusted messengers will play a particularly important role in compelling individuals from hard-to-count communities to participate in the 2020 Census.
“The Massachusetts Census Equity Fund just announced the first half a million dollars in grants to over 40 organizations across the state, all to ensure that fear doesn’t drive us into darkness,” said Alexie Torres. “Darkness can only be cast out when we stand in the light. We must come together and support trusted messengers to highlight what’s at stake for the 2020 census.”
For more information on the City’s outreach efforts to ensure a fair and complete count, please visit boston.gov/2020-census.