Organizations across the state are ramping up efforts to ensure a complete count during the 2020 census, and a $1 million award could help outreach efforts toward hard-to-reach populations.
The William Penn Foundation, a Philadelphia-based group focused on improving education for low-income children and creating a sustainable environment, awarded the money to Keystone Counts. That statewide coalition of advocacy groups who will use the funds to focus on 24 priority counties, including Westmoreland and Allegheny, said Erin Casey, executive director of Pennsylvania Voice.
“This is just a start of the work we’re doing,” Casey said. “From our perspective, as we start looking at this work and the work that needs to be done, we’re hoping that the contribution from the William Penn Foundation and others is just the start of the work that needs to happen in the state.”
Casey said the money will be used to encourage hard-to-reach populations — including people of color, rural populations, immigrants and children — to participate in the once-a-decade survey through event canvassing, door-knocking and text messages. The census impacts the amount of funds that are allocated to the state and how legislative districts are drawn.
Casey added that the counties the group is focusing on — Allegheny, Beaver, Berks, Bucks, Centre, Chester, Cumberland, Dauphin, Delaware, Erie, Franklin, Lackawanna, Lancaster, Lebanon, Lehigh, Luzerne, Monroe, Montgomery, Northampton, Philadelphia, Pike, Washington, Westmoreland and York — were undercounted during the 2010 census, which missed about 1.5 million people across the country, according to the Keystone Counts website.
So far, the Westmoreland committee has raised $50,000 to be used for community outreach in regards to the census, said Phil Koch, executive director of the Westmoreland Community Foundation. Koch said the original $25,000 grant came from an anonymous donor and was matched by the Pittsburgh Foundation.
Koch added that officials hope to raise an additional $20,000 that will be used for mini grants that can be given to educational entities for the purpose of teaching the school or community about the census.
“It would be if they want to have their own events or come up with their own ways to promote the census,” Koch said. “Pitt Greensburg might have a census day, and they might have T-shirts given or have people sign a pledge. … That is a way to empower the local community to get excited about (the census).”
Koch added that the Westmoreland and Allegheny complete count committees have been working closely together to identify any additional assets they may need moving forward.
The move for local and state organizations to raise money for census efforts comes after lawmakers unveiled a budget in June that did not include any extra funds for the survey, the Associated Press reported.
The bipartisan statewide census 2020 complete count commission, started by Gov. Tom Wolf, proposed a budget of $1 per person for the census, or close to $13 million. House Republicans said there was no need for the state to fund something headed by the federal government.
The AP also reported that the state loses about $2,100 a year for each person not counted.
“We think it is a missed opportunity by our elected leaders,” Casey said. “We’re focused on 1.2 million households, but we need to make sure every single household in Pennsylvania is participating in the census. … The lack of investment from our leaders could have a long-term impact on resources coming into Pennsylvania.”