September 15, 2020 | Main Spotlight: Why the Census Matters to Main Street | By: Abby Armato, Communications Coordinator, NMSC
It is vital to our nation’s Main Streets and their communities that as many people as possible complete the 2020 Census. Occurring every 10 years, the U.S. Census strives to count the entire population of the United States. The data collected from the census will impact communities for the next decade, from federal funding to political representation to accurate data about the people in your town. The September 30th deadline to respond to the 2020 Census is quickly approaching but there is still time to encourage your community to fill it out.
Everyone counts! The 2020 Census does not ask about citizenship status, and aims to count everyone living in the country, including non-citizens. Answers to the census cannot be shared with law enforcement or used against responders. Learn more about these common concerns regarding the 2020 Census.
How the Census affects Main Street
The 2020 Census data informs the distribution of more than $1.5 trillion of federal funds. These funds support essential programs related to economic development, housing, transportation, food assistance, and hundreds of other programs benefiting local governments, nonprofits, small businesses, and households.
Main Street programs and their partners directly and indirectly benefit from the information and allocation of funds determined by the census. Among many, some of the programs whose allocations are determined by the census include the Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid, Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Grants, HOME Investment Partnerships Program, and Low Income Housing Tax Credits.
“In many cases, these funds make it possible for public-private partnerships to fuel comprehensive community development,” wrote Matt Josephs, Senior Vice President of LISC, in a recent article. “An inaccurate count would exacerbate existing inequities, hindering the vital work of community-based organizations, state and local governments, and others striving to expand access to resources and create healthy, thriving and sustainable communities across the country.”
This sentiment is especially true for rural communities as policymakers use census data to plan and fund many programs that specifically affect small towns. In 2010, the Census data shaped programs related to rural business enterprise grants, rural housing preservation grants, and rural education—just to name a few. Additionally, the Census data informs how funds to these programs are distributed, affecting distribution information such as eligibility criteria, allocation formulas, selection preferences, and interest rates.
"When residents live in an area that's more rural than urban, they are trying to make decisions like how to build schools, what services need to be offered," said Mary Craigle, Chief of the Research and Information Services Bureau at the Montana Department of Commerce, on how the census shapes our communities.
"Really, the only source of data that we have is U.S. Census Bureau data. The census is the one chance to get that really great information for rural America."
How Main Streets are Connecting with their Communities
Communities across the Main Street America Network are working hard to keep their residents informed about—and engaged with—the 2020 U.S. Census.
- Ambassador Program. The Richmond Main Street Initiative (RMSI) has created a team of Census Ambassadors who are making calls to encourage residents to complete their Census. In their blog announcing the ambassador program, RMSI reported that more than 25% of their county had yet to be counted, translating to an estimated $6 billion loss in federal funding. To encourage further participation, the Richmond Main Street 2020 Census Ambassadors have created videos sharing why they became ambassadors, why a complete count is important, and how residents can get involved.
- Take the Challenge. The Town of Highland in Indiana has been using its social media platforms to frequently post information about the 2020 Census. Most recently, the City challenged their community to complete the census, and reply to their tweet using #Census2020. Challenge your own community using these downloadable social graphics.
- Completion Updates. The City of Cocoa in Florida used their social media channels to update their followers on their county’s completion rate. Their current goal is 75% completion by the end of September. They also used social media to alert their community to the census takers going door-to-door to help accomplish this completion goal.
- Business Partners. The City of Pharr in Texas is collaborating with three local businesses to assist with counting their community. During the third week of August, census workers were available in these stores to assist shoppers in on-site completion of their census.
When it comes to the importance of the census for Main Street, every effort counts. If you haven’t already, be sure your Main Street program is sharing the 2020 Census and promoting the essential information and vital impact it will have on your community throughout the next decade. Plus, several organizations have been funding available for those nonprofits working to increase census responses, such this Instagrant program through the LOR Foundation for those in the rural Mountain West.
Need assistance getting started on sharing the Census with your community? Download these easy-to-use social media graphics and share on your social channels today!