Newswire: Census self-response: the antidote to coronavirus impact

Activists aim to maximize Black census response through education campaign
By Khalil Abdullah


TriceEdneyWire.com) – Jeri Green, 2020 Census Senior Advisor for the National Urban League’s Census Black Roundtable, is encouraging African-Americans, and indeed all Americans, to self-respond to the census, in part to allay fears the novel corona virus could be spread to households by a census enumerator, the person who knocks on your door with blank census forms and clipboard in hand.
Even as the Census Bureau has announced a package of strategies to delay door-to-door enumeration and counting the homeless, among other initiatives, eventually the hard work will resume toward fulfilling the constitutional mandate on which so many aspects of American life depends.
This is the first decennial census utilizing the Internet. Phone response is an option as well. Green encouraged using either method as an alternative to the standard nine-question paper census form now arriving at many homes. The paper form, addressed to “Resident” – and not to be mistaken for junk mail — is to be filled out and returned to the Census Bureau by mail. Non-responding addresses trigger a visit by a census enumerator.
“In many of our communities, especially the Black community, a significant portion of our community waits for that knock on the door,” Green said during a national media telebriefing: Addressing Security Information and Privacy Issues, Census2020. The event was sponsored by the Leadership Conference Education Fund in partnership with Ethnic Media Services.
Green was joined by Beth Lynk, LCEF’s Census Counts Campaign Director; Lizette Escobedo, Director of National Census Program, NALEO Educational Fund; John Yang, President and Executive Director, Asian Americans Advancing Justice; Ditas Katague, Director, California Complete Count Committee; and Lycia Maddox, Vice President of External Affairs, National Congress of American Indians.
These speakers explained the often similar but also unique obstacles to marshalling their constituents’ responses to the census, one they agree will be one of the most challenging in America’s history and “one of the most urgent civil rights issues facing the country,” Beth Lynk observed.
Yang said concern about the privacy of census responses among Asian American families, particularly those with mixed immigrant status households, was heightened by the Department of Commerce’s efforts to include a question on citizenship on the 2020 census form. He said surveys have shown that a significant percentage of Asian Americans, as high as 30 percent in one poll, still incorrectly think the question is on the form.
Similarly, the citizenship question has roiled the Latino community. Some surveys showed that about half of Latinos still thought it would be included on the form, said Escobedo. “This is a significant concern for us.”
Green also cited the historic lack of trust within the Black community, of how the federal government may use census information, as a looming impediment to a successful count. That same sentiment may depress the response rate from African and Caribbean immigrant residents who are increasingly becoming a percentage of the National Urban League’s constituency.
The NUL and its 90 affiliates now have a presence in 36 states and the District of Columbia with the capacity to potentially reach two million American residents, Green reported. The NUL’s Make Black Count campaign, a collaboration with other organizations and religious leaders, has held national phone telebriefings. March’s event drew well over a thousand participants.
Make Black Count is designed to increase awareness and understanding about elected congressional and state representation as well as the allocation of monetary benefits derived from the census. These tax-derived funds are returned, by population-driven formulas, to states, counties, cities, and towns. The federal contribution to rural hospitals, for example, has moved to the forefront of concerns as the demand for adequate bed space and equipment spike in the throes of the corona virus pandemic.
With the corona virus dominating the news, the census is at risk of being pushed to the margins of the public consciousness. By following the Center for Disease Control’s guidance, Yang said his organization, as are the other telebriefing participants, is factoring in recommendations on how to improve public outreach.
“A number of our grassroots-based organizations are moving more toward phone banks, text banks, to create more of a presence on-line because, certainly tabling opportunities, in-person opportunities are becoming restricted and we want to exercise caution and ensure the safety and health of our volunteers,” Yang said. Escobedo said NALEO, for example, is reaching many Latinos through Facebook.
Yang also is concerned about how messaging about the virus and disease is being distorted. “Getting the facts right matter,” Yang emphasized. “We, unfortunately, are seeing a significant increase in hate incidents around Covid-19, corona virus, directed against the Asian community and this is something we need to stand up against. The reality is that this is a health hazard. It is not specific to one ethnic community. One ethnic community is not the carrier of this health hazard in a manner that is genetically based.”
Lycia Maddox, Vice President of External Affairs, National Congress of American Indians, spoke about the uphill climb to achieving accurate representation of the Native American population. “Indian Country has the highest undercount of 4.9 percent, almost double the next population group,” she said of the 2010 census.
Maddox said NCAI has partnered with other Native American organizations and tribal leaders in efforts to boost the response rate in communities that typically qualify as Hard to Count. HTC is a designation that applies to census tracts where the past history of responses to the census have lagged. Immigrant households, and ones where English is not the primary language, consistently fall under that rubric. But other descriptors — low-income households, rural communities, and lack of robust Internet access — apply to a significant percentage of the Native American presence.
As a consequence, tribal nations also comprise part of California’s 11 million Hard to Count population in a state of 40 million residents. The size of California’s population alone sets it apart from the rest of the country, Katague explained. She said Los Angeles County, where 192 languages are spoken, has a population larger than 42 states. California has committed $187.2 million to achieving a complete count, funding that surpasses the combined financial commitment of the 49 remaining states.
Maddox said the corona virus has made its presence felt among Native Americans in other ways. There are instances of some tribes limiting physical access by outsiders to reservations and communities in order to limit the potential of exposure to the virus. Another concern is that the recruitment of Native American enumerators, already difficult enough, will be negatively impacted. Jeri Green and the NUL are painfully aware of this possibility as well.
“We are concerned about hiring,” Green said. “We know that the Census Bureau has to recruit 2.5 million people to hire 500,000 enumerators. We now worry about a greater attrition rate than they’ve had, where people might just say, ‘Okay, well, I’m out of here. I don’t want to knock on doors because of this virus.’ We don’t know.
“But we have been, all along, trying to shift the dynamic and move the needle in the other way, even before this virus came on, and push self-response. And that’s what we’ve been doing, pushing the telephone lines and self-response because we don’t want those great numbers out there in the non-response universe.”
Yet, one estimate is, at the acme of the census response, there could be as many as eight million hits a day on the census website.
“We just have to hope and pray that the Census Bureau’s infrastructure for telephone questionnaire assistance and Internet response are all functioning,” Green said. “They seem to be all systems go.”
Green, a former census employee, now retired from federal service, said, “We are fighting collectively to ensure that the Black population loses no ground–political, economic or civil rights as a result of the 2020 census. The stakes are too high. We must Make Black Count in the 2020 Census.”

Newswire: NAACP lawsuit claims Census Bureau is unprepared for count

By Mike Schneider, Associated Press


ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Calling preparations for the 2020 Census “conspicuously deficient,” the NAACP is suing the U.S. Census Bureau, demanding that the agency send more workers into the field and spend more money on encouraging people to participate in the once-a-decade head count.
The civil rights group and Prince George’s County, a majority African American county in Maryland, filed the lawsuit last Friday in federal court in Maryland. It claims the Census Bureau wasn’t planning to put enough workers in the field and hadn’t opened up a sufficient number of field offices.
The lawsuit also faulted the bureau for conducting limited testing, particularly when, for the first time, it is encouraging most respondents to answer the questionnaire online.
The 2020 census will help determine the distribution of $1.5 trillion in federal spending and how many congressional seats each state gets. It starts for a few residents next week in a remote part of Alaska, but most people won’t be able to begin answering the questionnaire until mid-March.
“These deficiencies will result in a massive and differential undercount of communities of color,” the lawsuit said. “Such a dramatic undercount will especially dilute the votes of racial and ethnic minorities, deprive their communities of critical federal funds, and undervalue their voices and interests in the political arena.”
The Census Bureau didn’t immediately respond to an email for comment on Monday. The bureau plans to hire as many as 500,000 temporary workers, mostly to help knock on the doors of homes where people haven’t yet responded to the census. Although that is less than in 2010, the agency has said it doesn’t need as many workers this year because of technological advances, such as the ability of workers to collect information on their mobile devices.
An earlier version of the lawsuit was first filed in 2018, but it was dismissed by the district court. An appellate court last month ruled some of the claims could be raised again in the amended complaint filed Friday. In previous court papers, the Census Bureau has called the lawsuit “meritless.””

Newswire :Citizenship question could hurt Census count of Black America

By Khalil Abdullah

Special to the Trice Edney News Wire from Ethnic Media Services

(TriceEdneyWire.com) – The Constitution requires that America’s decennial census count all persons residing in the United States, not just citizens, a clearly stated objective now at risk.
In a lawsuit brought by plaintiffs including states, cities and civil rights organizations, New York Southern District Judge Jesse Furman ruled on Jan. 15 in their favor against Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’ intention directing the Census Bureau to include a question asking census respondents whether they and everyone else in their households are U.S. citizens.
At issue is not only whether the question’s inclusion is legal, given administrative timelines that were missed, but whether it would depress participation, particularly among ethnic populations, thus resulting in an inaccurate count.
Jeri Green, Senior Advisor on the 2020 Census at the National Urban League, termed Ross’ action “a thinly veiled attempt to sabotage and affect congressional and Electoral College representation by deliberately undercounting vulnerable populations and erasing them from the census count.”
Green noted that “out of roughly 11 to 12 million undocumented immigrants in America, about 620,00 are black, according to the most recent statistics by the Migration Policy Institute. But equally at risk, however, are the 4.2 million documented black immigrants who comprise a rising share of the black population in the United States.”
Green participated as a panelist in a media conference call co-sponsored by the Leadership Conference Education Fund and Ethnic Media Services.
Census data is used to determine congressional reapportionment as well as the basis to accurately and fairly distribute federal money to states, counties and cities for a variety of programmatic and infrastructure needs. From schools and hospitals to social services, there is virtually no civic arena that is left unaffected by census apportioned revenue – between $700 to $800 billion annually. Data collected in 2020 will inform all such determinations for 10 years, until the next census in 2030.
However, today’s political environment is often inflamed by debates over immigration and related issues, such as a proposed expansion of a wall on America’s southern border or a recently published story in The Washington Post on non-citizen voting in North Carolina — votes sometimes cast due to ignorance of, or misunderstandings about citizenship status.
Like the National Urban League’s concerns about the dilution and disempowerment of the black vote, and underfunding of programs and services, the National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO) shares the same perspective relative to its Latino constituents.
Angela Manso, Director of Policy and Legislative Affairs, NALEO Educational Fund, cited Census Bureau findings in Providence County, R.I., that “over 78 percent of the Latinos surveyed believe that a citizenship question would make people afraid to participate in the census.”
Manso contends Secretary Ross’ insistence to include the question is “designed to erase our presence in this country and impact our growing political force.”
A newly released Pew Research Center analysis of the 2020 electorate underscores demographic shifts that will produce a greater number of eligible ethnic minority voters, especially Latinos.
John C. Yang, President and Executive Director, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, a panelist on the call, argued for the elimination of the question as well. He explained that its addition would likely produce a lower turnout among Asian Americans, this country’s fastest growing ethnic cohort. A significant percentage of that growth is due to recent immigrants. “One in four Asians in the United States,” Yang said, “are new Americans and have never participated in the Census, and a citizenship question endangers an accurate count.”
Panelists urged Congress to “step in” to resolve the contention over the citizenship question by introducing legislation that would bar its usage. There are concerns that even with Judge Furman’s ruling in New York, a potentially favorable outcome for opponents of the question’s inclusion in a Maryland lawsuit and yet a third trial in California that is anticipated to produce a ruling similar to New York’s, the Supreme Court could decide to hear the case on the government’s expedited appeal.
Though presumably adherence to precedents would prevail at the country’s highest court, a new law specifically excluding the citizen question could put the issue to rest and beyond the reach of Secretary Ross or others who may seek to exploit its use to accomplish a political agenda.
A House bill, the Census IDEA Act, sponsored by Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., that would bar the question’s use, only a few days ago saw a companion bill introduced by Sen. Brian Schatz, D-HI.
Yet, while the panelists argued that a fair and accurate census should be a bi-partisan issue — as an inaccurate count reduces revenue for Americans in need everywhere, not to mention violates the principle of equality under law — attempting to enact legislation brings its own risks.
For one, not only would both the Senate and the House have to pass legislation, the President would have to sign it into law. Should he choose to veto it, it would take 67 senators to override.
Terri Ann Lowenthal, a former staff director of the House subcommittee charged with overseeing the census, said the most likely route to pass legislation addressing the citizenship question would be to attach it to a “must-pass bill,” like an appropriations bill.
Meanwhile, with court cases still pending and the final status of the question still unresolved, key deadlines are at risk. A critical public education awaits implementation and there may be a delay in printing the final census forms until after this summer’s target date. Green noted that Census Bureau enumerators, drawn from the communities they survey to conduct the door-to-door interviews when individuals fail to respond to mailed surveys, have yet to be hired and trained. But to hire the 500,00 people needed for the task, the Census Bureau expects to screen 2.5 million applicants.
Green also pointed out that, given the 2020 census will be the first to utilize the Internet as medium of response, the consequences of the digital divide and lack of Internet access may negatively affect response rates from already hard to count communities, typically low-income and rural, and ones where the number of children present in a household are often unreported.
Beth Lynk, Census Counts Campaign Director for The Leadership Conference Education Fund, speaking of the New York ruling, said that “each of the dozens of defects the judge found” would provide a sufficient basis to exclude the question. Especially relevant to traditionally hard to count populations, Lynk cited a quote from Judge Furman’s 277-page decision: “Hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people would go uncounted if the citizenship question is included.”

Wells Fargo commits $60B lending goal toward African American home ownership

WellsFargoBankPhoto.jpg     Wells Fargo announced on Tuesday a $60 billion lending commitment to create at least 250,000 African American homeowners by 2027, directly addressing the lower home ownership rates in the African American community.

The financial commitment serves to help a community that is slated to significantly increase. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, by the year 2024, 75% of the expected 14 million new households (renters and owners) in the U.S. will be diverse.

And of this amount, African Americans are projected to represent 17%, or the third largest segment, of the new households.

Wells Fargo said that through the commitment it plans to:

  • Lend $60 billion to qualified African American consumers for home purchases by 2027
  • Increase the diversity of the Wells Fargo Home Lending sales team
  • Support the effort with $15 million to support a variety of initiatives that promote financial education and counseling over the next ten years.

The National Association of Real Estate Brokers (composed of African American real estate professionals), which has also set a home ownership goal, and two of the nation’s most influential civil rights organizations, the NAACP and the National Urban League, are also working alongside Wells Fargo.

“Wells Fargo’s $60 billion lending goal can contribute to economic growth by making responsible home ownership possible for more African Americans in communities across the country,” said Brad Blackwell, executive vice president and head of housing policy and home ownership growth strategies for Wells Fargo.

“NAREB applauds Wells Fargo’s $60 billion loan commitment. The bank is the first financial institution to acknowledge publicly Black Americans’ wealth-building potential which could be greatly improved through home ownership,” said Ron Cooper, president, National Association of Real Estate Brokers.

“NAREB welcomes their entry into the struggle to close the ever-widening wealth gap for Black Americans, and looks forward to having Wells Fargo as a partner in NAREB’s ‘2 Million New Black Homeowners in 5 Years’ program,” he continued.

Wells Fargo’s $60 million commitment follows its 2015 announcement to help increase Hispanic home ownership. At the time, Wells Fargo Home Mortgage said it aimed originate $125 billion over the next 10 years in order to assist in the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals’ Hispanic Wealth Project, which seeks to triple Hispanic household wealth over the next decade.

While Wells Fargo’s lending commitment is spread out over ten years, according to a recent interview with Raphael Bostic, a professor at the Sol Price School of Public Policy at the University of Southern California, America is projected to become drastically more diverse over the next several decades.

“The Census Bureau has a projection that America will be 100 million people more in the next 45 years,” said Bostic. “And if you break down where the growth is coming, it’s coming with African American families, it’s coming with Asian families, and it’s coming with Latino families. What we will have at the end of that period is the most diverse country that we’ve ever seen. It really won’t make sense to talk about minorities since there will be pluralities of everyone.”