Event encourages participation in 2020 Census

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The census is not until 2020, but a group in Lansing came together Monday to talk about how to empower people to do their part to ensure an accurate headcount.

Joni Risner, Vice President of Community Outreach and Engagement for the Capital Area United Way, says everyone needs to participate because there’s a lot at stake for Michigan.

“This is huge,” she said. “Much of our state budget comes from federal dollars from the census count.”

Everything from food stamps to housing assistance, as well as Michigan’s voice in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“If we have more people, we’ll get more house seats,” Risner said. “And that’s important for Michigan to have a say in Washington.”

The event was held to figure out how to get the hard-to-reach populations to participate in next year’s census. Risner says the United Way is working with grass-roots organizations to reach out to people in those hard-to-reach communities.

The group that hosted the event, Voces De La Comunidad which advocates for the Latino community, says part of the problem for people in their community is distrust with government.

“I used to be part of the community that didn’t believe it was important to be counted in the census. I thought it was a form of segregating and discriminating,” Yesenia Murillo, Secretary for Voces De La Comunidad said. “Today, I know that it is not that.”

Risner said the citizenship question which the U.S. Supreme Court is considering, may also cause people to hesitate. But, she added, people should not worry about that question, because agencies like the FBI or Immigration and Customs Enforcement, cannot use answers against people.

“We want to make sure that people understand the census is just to count people. They’re not supposed to use that data, nor do they use that data, for any other purpose,” Risner said. “If you complete the census, you will not have someone pounding on your door to take you away.”

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