Sherri Welch Crain’s Detroit Business 2017-11-16 15:08:48
The 2020 Census is more than two years out, but the Michigan Nonprofit Association is already launching a campaign to encourage populations that are typically underreported to take part in the census. Among the complicating factors: A new online census form expected to roll out this year and fears among Michigan's Middle Eastern population and other immigrants, sparked by White House policy, could further hurt counts, Michigan nonprofit leaders said. And that translates to lost federal funding for programs serving those populations and the state as a whole. Joan Bowman: Distrust of government high. Michigan was one of the top states in the country for reporting during the 2010 Census. It actually saw a slight overcount. But that was largely due to double counts. Within that, populations of people who often rely on federally funded programs underreported, according to the state. Populations that are typically undercounted include low-income, minority, immigrant, rural, renter and young children populations. In Michigan, minorities and young children, in particular, were underreported during the last census. Many nonprofits serve those hard-to-count populations, putting them in a position to help allay fears, educate and to impress upon those often missed in counts how important it is to be counted. "Distrust of government is at an all-time high," said Joan Bowman, vice president of Michigan Nonprofit Association. "Nonprofits are one of the last trusted entities." Immigrant concerns Debbie McKeon: Questions could deter participation. Given that it's home to the country's largest Middle Eastern settlement, the region and state — which also has significant Hispanic populations in Detroit and Grand Rapids — could face undercounts in immigrant populations. Fears that census data could be shared among federal agencies — something that's illegal currently — and that sensitive questions of citizenship may be included on the form could deter immigrant populations from providing data for the census, nonprofit leaders said. Policy considerations such as adding questions around citizenship to the census could deter participation in the census, said Debbie McKeon, senior vice president, member services for the Council of Michigan Foundations. Hassan Jaber: Immigrants feeling targeted. "We don't know yet, what may come out of that. ... It's definitely a concern that our undercount could be higher." Hassan Jaber, executive director and CEO of Dearborn-based ACCESS and a member of the national advisory board to the U.S. Census Bureau, said he, too, has been hearing the concerns about questions on citizenship. But that hasn't come up during advisory board meetings. Immigrants and minorities have expressed concerns, he said, that they feel targeted and are concerned about the use of private, individual census data for anything other than census purposes. It's a serious issue, he said. "We need to be transparent ... be direct in terms of upholding the law (which) says that census information needs to be confidential and private." What's at stake Counts for citizens and immigrants alike affect the funding coming to Michigan and other states for programs serving those populations and the public as a whole, including housing assistance, Head Start, health care, highway construction and other programs. The Michigan Nonprofit Association has set a goal to get at least as many people in Michigan counted in the 2020 census as the last time around. To do so, it's launching a statewide campaign to engage grassroots nonprofits that have relationships with hard-to-count communities and may be able to impact counts within those communities. A $600,000 grant over three years from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation is funding outreach in four cities: Detroit, Dearborn, Flint and Grand Rapids. Modeled on a similar effort that launched a year before the 2010 census, the 2020 Michigan Nonprofit Counts Campaign will provide training and tools to help nonprofits reach hard-to-count people and to award mini-grants to local nonprofits for the outreach.
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