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South Salt Lake Journal

South Salt Lake hopes for accurate census count to provide more funds

Mar 23, 2020 02:45PM ● By Bill Hardesty

By Bill Hardesty | [email protected]

April 1 is not only April Fools’ Day this year, it is also Census Day. It is the day everyone living in the United States, regardless of age, race or legal status is counted.

“The census is an opportunity to get an accurate count of our community to maximize resources,” Kelli Meranda, the director of Promise South Salt Lake, said.

Show me the money

An accurate count is tied to many sources of funds for the city. George Washington University lists 16 large federal programs used in the state that are tied to the census count. The list includes Medicaid, highway planning and construction, Head Start, State Children’s Health Insurance program (S-CHIP), WIC funds, school lunch programs, and numerous health and home assistance programs.

In Utah, it is estimated that cities lost $1,086 per uncounted person from the 2010 census. Because the census is only taken every 10 years, the actual lost is 10 times impactful meaning SSL could have lost $10,860 per uncounted person over the last 10 years.

The biggest example of how funds are tied to the census is Title 1 funds. Title 1 is part of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB). However, the funds originated for the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA). Title 1 provides federal funds to schools with a high percentage of low-income students. While each school decides how to use Title 1 funds, they are commonly used to improve curriculum and programs, instructional activities, counseling, parental involvement and increase staff. With a population of 22% below the poverty level, these funds are used widely in schools in SSL.

“With the theme of Invest in People running through so much of the work we do, we regularly take stock of who we are and what services are needed. The census is a key piece that informs this process. Many of our programs and services receive some form of local, state or federal funding or other grants,” said South Salt Lake Mayor Cherie Wood.  

A hard to count city

SSL is considered a hard to count city because of its demographics. Minorities have traditionally been under counted. A large refugee population not understanding the process is another undercounted group. Low-income individuals without access to technology is a potential barrier. The fear of enumerators coming to the door asking questions resulting in no response is another concern.

For the 2020 census, SSL is projected to have a 26.2% non-response rate. City officials are working hard to reduce that number.

“The census survey asks questions that help us understand our community and predict needs. We need to know South Salt Lake residents in order to serve them. We need to make certain every person in our community is counted. I urge you, if you haven't already, take this step to invest in yourself and in your community — take the 2020 census,” Wood said.

Planned activities

During the reporting period of mid-March through mid-July, the city has planned a variety of ways to reach everyone.

However, activities planned in April are cancelled due to the COVID-19 situation.

“We will continue to advertise through social media and will hopefully be able to host events in May and June. Census collection outreach is still a priority in the city,” Meranda said. 

The city is working with other organizations like the Granite School District, Office of Equity to make access points available at community centers.

The Family Liaison is working with refugee leaders to get the word out.

The schedule and process

In mid-March, all households will receive a postcard with a unique ID. Using the ID, they can access the census online. Paper forms are also available in English and Spanish. The online version is available in 13 languages with census guides in 59 languages.

Additional reminders will arrive in the mail.

If nothing is recorded for the household, an enumerator will visit the household six times before the ending in mid-July.

For the census form, the first question asked is how many people were staying in this house, apartment or mobile home on April 1, 2020. Starting with person No. 1, the following information should be provided: name, sex, age and date of birth, is the person Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin, and race.

These questions should be answered by everyone in the house. The paper form only has spots for 10 persons. The online form has spots for up to 99 persons.

Privacy is protected by law

In our modern world, sharing personal information is always a concern. The U.S. Census Bureau is governed by Title 13 of the U.S. Code.

According to their website, “Title 13 provides the following protections to individuals and businesses:

  • Private information is never published. It is against the law to disclose or publish any private information that identifies an individual or business such, including names, addresses (including GPS coordinates), Social Security Numbers, and telephone numbers.
  • The Census Bureau collects information to produce statistics. Personal information cannot be used against respondents by any government agency or court.
  • Census Bureau employees are sworn to protect confidentiality. People sworn to uphold Title 13 are legally required to maintain the confidentiality of your data. Every person with access to your data is sworn for life to protect your information and understands that the penalties for violating this law are applicable for a lifetime.
  • Violating the law is a serious federal crime. Anyone who violates this law will face severe penalties, including a federal prison sentence of up to five years, a fine of up to $250,000, or both.”

Stated simply, personal information given as part of the census, will not be available to landlords, employers, school officials or anyone else.

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