LORAIN — Lorain is gearing up for the 2020 census.
Staff from the U.S. Census Bureau gave a presentation at Monday’s Federal Programs Committee meeting, in hopes the city will create a Complete Count Committee to help get everyone counted next spring. Collected every 10 years and mandated in the Constitution, the census attempts to count every person living in the United States and collect basic information including age, race, median income and housing status.
Census data determines the amount of federal funding the city and state will receive from a more than $675 billion pot. It also serves as the basis for redistricting state and congressional representatives’ districts, Mark Boyd, U.S. Census Bureau partnership specialist said, and can help municipalities with city planning or entice businesses to move to an area with a growing population.
The bureau operates an interactive Response Outreach Area Mapper, or ROAM, which catalogs a response score by census tract, along with basic information collected about those residents. In Lorain, the city’s south side had the highest low-response score — meaning they are estimated to have the highest number of residents not respond to the upcoming census. Its highest low-response score is almost 31 percent, compared with between 17 and 19 percent in other parts of the city.
The hope is the Complete County Committee will help lower those numbers, meaning more people are counted in the 2020 census.
“People who have barriers to doing the census are more likely to listen to somebody like (an) elected official, or the leader of the ward or the head of a business or a pastor or a faith based organization more so than they’re going to listen to me or somebody from Washington,” Boyd said.
New this year, respondents can fill out the questionnaire online. A cost-cutting and time-saving measure for workers, the bureau is hoping roughly 50 percent of the population will use the online form. For those areas with little connectivity, or residents who do not trust or use the internet, paper and phone options still will be available, he said.
The census’ goal is to count everyone in the county, regardless of immigration status — an issue that has been pushed as far as the Supreme Court. President Donald Trump wants to put a question regarding citizenship on the census, a measure that was struck down by the court in a 5-4 ruling last month based on the administration’s stated reason for the question. The question still could be put on, if the reasoning behind it meets the justices’ standards.
Boyd said the U.S. Census Bureau already has begun printing census material for next year, and it does not include the citizenship question.
The question raises some concern in Lorain, a city with a complicated immigration history. Though not technically a “sanctuary city” Police Chief Cel Rivera has made it clear his department will not arrest people simply for being undocumented. Families in the city were affected by immigration raids last year in Erie County.
“It’s still kind of up in the air what the president’s going to do and what the Department of Justice is going to do — way above my pay grade,” Boyd said. “... But no matter whether that question’s on the census or not, the Census Bureau, we are a nonpartisan, apolitical branch.”
Bound by U.S. Code Title 13, no private or individual information collected for the census is ever published or turned over to other government agencies. The information the census collects is confidential and used only for statistical purposes.
Beyond those of questionable immigration status, the city has a high number of other difficult populations to count, including homeless. Boyd said homeless will be counted over the last three business days in March, with census workers visiting places like the Valor Home, Haven Center and others, as well as known camps or outdoor living spaces.
Lorain Chief of Staff Phil Dore asked about how the city’s rentals would be handled. The city has a high number of rental properties, and has grappled with absentee landlords and a climbing eviction rate during the recession. Boyd said the bureau can work with landlords to identify which units are empty, but only residents can answer the questionnaire.
For the blighted, vacant properties on the city’s demolition list, Boyd said the bureau will work with the city to confirm no one is living in them so they do not impact the overall count. Local municipalities will work with the bureau and its address canvassers to check the government’s master address list between August and October.
Census Day is April 1, with invitation mailings going out March 12 to every household in America. Follow up mailings will be sent out in the days and weeks afterward, and nonresponse face-to-face interviews will be conducted through July. Overall data is delivered to the president by Dec. 31, 2020, and provided to the states by April 2021.
The bureau is hiring for several census jobs, full and part time with flexible hours and work-from-home options. For more information, visit census.gov/jobs.