As communities throughout Arizona and Florida are dealing with massive concerns and uncertainties related to COVID-19, one thing remains critically important – ensuring a complete count for Census 2020. In fact, ensuring an accurate count can help us prepare for future challenges and ensure that we have the resources for emergency response funding needed to keep our communities safe and healthy.
Helios Education Foundation has been committed to supporting Census 2020 efforts in both Arizona and Florida because ensuring the most accurate count will provide federal funding for education programs like Head Start, Title I, classroom technology, and Pell Grant funding. In addition, items critical to supporting student learning like the school lunch program and various health programs are also dependent on the Census count. Census data is also used by state and local officials to determine where new schools need to be built, infrastructure needs, and workforce availability. Last, but certainly not least, Census numbers will determine each state’s apportionment of Congressional seats. This is also critical to ensuring that we have accurate representation and that our voices are heard and decisions made can further our educational and other community needs.
We also know that low-income and underserved communities are at a greater risk of not being accurately counted and that will disproportionately affect both Arizona and Florida. In 2010, three of the top ten counties to undercount young Latino children were in Arizona and Florida. It is absolutely critical that we count all of our residents regardless of their income or ethnicity.
There is no doubt that COVID-19 will have an impact on the Census. However, we are already seeing positive signs that we are staying the course and people are self-responding. As of May 15, Arizona is at a 55.8 percent self-response rate while Florida is at 56.9 percent. These numbers are really strong and are a direct result of all of the great work being done by grassroots and community partners to ensure a complete count.
Helios is grateful for the leadership of Governors Ducey (Arizona) and DeSantis (Florida) who have instituted Complete Count Committees. Helios’ Vice President of Public Policy and Government Affairs, Janice Palmer, serves on Arizona’s Complete Count Committee as the Philanthropic Partnerships Liaison and leads the philanthropic community to help strategize opportunities for philanthropy to engage in getting an accurate Census count.
In addition, we appreciate the national and statewide leadership of NALEO who are working specifically to empower community leaders with information and resources to ensure a complete count. Helios is a proud partner of NALEO and we have invested specifically to address the Latino undercount, with specific focus in Maricopa, Pima, Pinal, and Yuma counties in Arizona and regional work in Florida.
We also invested in One Arizona to support statewide, on-the-ground efforts to ensure every single Arizonan is counted. Over 25 grassroots, community, advocacy, Congressional offices, and cities/towns are represented to coordinate efforts and ensure all members of our community are touched with Census2020 outreach efforts.
We will come out of this pandemic stronger and more resilient. And we will take the lessons we have learned to improve our communities for the future. Ensuring a complete Census count is one thing we can do now to help secure our future – both for ourselves and the next generation to come.