Attendees to the MACo 2019 December Winter Conference learned about the importance of participating in the 2020 Census and how to achieve higher participation rates among undercounted communities during the “2020 Census: The Foundation of Our Future” panel. The paenl was held on December 4.
Maryland Secretary of Planning Robert McCord explained the importance of the census to state and local funding and how census data is used. McCord highlighted how the Maryland Department of Planning (MDP) provides census data that counties can use for transportation, land use, and emergency management purposes. Counties can also visit MDP’s website to click on Maryland’s census track to find hard to count areas. McCord noted that counties must also work to maintain areas with good response rates and urged counties to create a “Complete Count Committee” to improve census response rates.
Prince George’s County Council Member Deni Taveras also stressed importance of improving reporting low responding communities – especially those with socio-economic or diversity issues. Taveras stated that good census reporting is worth about $1 billion to Maryland counties. Taveras highlighted the challenges of reaching illiterate, non-English speaking, and high poverty communities. Taveras discussed the needs assessment findings by Identity, Inc. for Montgomery County. Key needs included better outreach on: (1) why the census is important; (2) the security of information provided; and (3) directions on completing the census. Taveras also explained what Prince George’s County is doing locally to increase its census participation.
Baltimore County Special Assistant to County Administrative Officer Sevetra Peoples listed some key messaging barriers for hard to reach populations. Peoples discussed the work of Baltimore County’s “hard to count committee” and its six subcommittees. Peoples stressed the importance of participation by different stakeholders, including faith-based groups, the Chamber of Commerce, and education groups. Peoples argued that census participation is about behavior change (similar to voting). Peoples explained how you can bring about behavior change in stages.
McCord also moderated the panel.