Detroit rally pushes effort to boost 2020 Census participation

Louis Aguilar
The Detroit News
Victoria Kovari, executive director of the Detroit 2020 Census Campaign,  said more  than 2,000 workers will be hired to help encourage Detroit residents to fill out the census.

Detroit — City officials used a packed and passionate rally Monday to launch its effort to get residents to fill out the U.S. Census 2020, the population count that determines how much federal funding the city receives for a wide range of programs. 

The city of Detroit and more than 100 local partners are working to raise $3 million to fund the "Be Counted Detroit" campaign to boost the census response rate to 70 percent or better.

In 2010, city's participation fell to 64 percent. It was among the worst performances among major U.S. cities. Nonprofits, the Detroit school district, churches, businesses and other groups have signed on to try to help boost the number of Detroit residents who fill out the census. 

Each uncounted Detroit resident represents a $1,800 annual loss to the city in federal funding, officials said. That adds up to a potential loss of hundreds of millions in federal funding over a decade 

"There is nothing more important than ensuring that every Detroiter stand up and be counted," Mayor Mike Duggan told an estimated 300-plus people at the nonprofit Focus: HOPE. The event had the atmosphere of a political rally, with poets, politicians and preachers all challenging the audience to help get the word out.  

City resident and poet Micheal Reyes, aka Reyes, wrote a poem for the event. “Be counted; be seen for our youth, elders, for those often marginalized and left out to the wayside. Be counted, bring dollars back to every barrio, every 'hood, every space too often not seen by blind eyes. “

Historically, the census under-counts people of color, immigrants, young children and people living in poverty, officials said.  Democratic U.S. Sen. Gary Peters of Bloomfield Township and U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Detroit contend the Trump administration has put up more barriers to keep Democratic-centric Detroit's population under-counted. 

"Sen. Peters is right, (Trump) doesn't want us counted. In 2010, there were over 540 area Census offices. In 2020, they are only going to give us 248," Tlaib said. "I know about our city. When people say we can not do it, we show them we can. Out work the hate. Out work these kind of un-American policies that say that we don't count."

U.S. Sen. Gary Peters urges people to sign up and be counted for the 2020 census.

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule by the end of June on the legality of the decision by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to add a citizenship question to the census questionnaire. Critics have argued the question would discourage illegal immigrants from getting counted in the census. 

President Donald Trump weighed in Monday on Twitter, arguing the country's 2020 census would be "meaningless" without adding the citizenship question to the questionnaire.

"Can you believe that the Radical Left Democrats want to do our new and very important Census Report without the all important Citizenship Question," Trump tweeted. "Report would be meaningless and a waste of the $Billions (ridiculous) that it costs to put together!"

More than 2,000 workers will be hired to help encourage Detroit residents to fill out the census. The 2020 Census will be the first to rely heavily on online responses -- a move some fear will be another obstacle for some residents.

Detroit's population was 673,104, according to the latest census estimate, a decline of 2,376 residents. The drop is close to the previous year's loss of 2,770.

The Census population is used to determine how much federal funding Detroit will receive for such things as schools, road repairs, Head Start and Medicare/Medicaid to name a few programs.

Twitter: LouisAguilar_DN