Director of Health & Human Services speaking at podium with Commissioner smiling

Sounding the alarm for the 2020 Census

We must renew our efforts to advocate for effective policies, programs, and services that will end the crisis of homelessness and hunger for good.

 “We are sounding the alarm for more awareness and participation in the 2020 Census"- this was the message ringing loud and clear during Your Way Home's Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week event at the Montgomery County courthouse on Friday, November 22, 2019.

Speaking in front of community advocates, nonprofit and government staff, residents, and local leaders, Commissioner Val Arkoosh and Director of Health and Human Services Tara Gaudin (pictured at podium) described how Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week is a time for solidarity and advocacy. First, we must acknowledge that up to 80 individuals and 20 families with children are sleeping outside in Montgomery County every night, and 9% of our county's residents are food insecure. Second, we must renew our efforts to advocate for effective policies, programs, and services to end the crisis of homelessness and hunger for good.

One way to ensure that we have the resources to advocate and serve is through the 2020 Census.

Why is the 2020 Census important to hunger & homeless advocates?

The 2020 Census will count every individual living in the country. Data from the Census is used to determine funding levels for critical health and human services programs and community development, as well as state and federal representation, for the next ten years. Unfortunately, Montgomery County and the state of Pennsylvania are at risk of an undercount- putting our future ability to serve people who are homeless and hungry in jeopardy. Counting every individual in Montgomery County in the 2020 Census is absolutely essential to ensuring public funding for safety net services over the next decade.

How can local nonprofits support an accurate and complete count?

HealthSpark Foundation asked Bill England, a community organizer with Pennsylvania Health Access Network and a Sub-Committee Co-Chair of the Montgomery County Complete Count Committee, to answer a few questions about how safety net providers and funders can get involved in the census outreach.

HealthSpark Foundation: What would be the impact of an undercount on the safety net sector?

Bill England: The 2020 Census count will soon be here and there is much at stake. According to George Washington University, Pennsylvania is the 2nd most vulnerable state to have an undercount.

In 2016, $39 Billion in Census-derived federal funds was allocated to the commonwealth. This money helps to fund key safety net programs and services such as Head Start; Medicare, Medicaid, and CHIP; the school lunch program and special education; low-income housing assistance; and low-income energy assistance. Each person not counted represents $2,093 in lost funding. An undercount could have a negative effect on safety net providers and mean less funding for the services and programs they provide.

HealthSpark Foundation: What are some actions that safety net providers can take to ensure an accurate and complete count?

Bill England: There are many things that can be done and there is a role for every provider concerned about the count. Some can be easily done; others may take a little planning.

  • Organizations can place Census flyers and brochures in common areas where visitors will see them.

  • Add a blurb to email and place Census information on organizational websites and in social media.

  • Host a staff/volunteer training about the significance of the Census and how to talk about it with participants.

  • Offer a “community conversation” for all stakeholders about the importance of the count and how to participate in the Census.

  • Make a computer available with a staff member or volunteer to sit with people while they enter their info online.

It is not too early to bring up the Census count as people are more likely to think about the Census by being exposed to it multiple times.

Interested in learning more?

It's not too late to join the outreach efforts to ensure a complete and accurate count! Organizations that would like to join Montgomery County’s Census outreach team can find out more online on the County's Census page.

Funding for Census outreach activities is available through the Philanthropy Network of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey.

There are multiple ways to get involved- but time is running out! Join the efforts today, and tag #MontcoPACounts to share your story.