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News & Press: MPCA News

What Does it Mean to be Counted?

Wednesday, February 5, 2020  
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At community health centers, people have the unique opportunity to feel heard, to feel as though an entire community is wrapping their arms around them. To matter. To “be counted.” 

Being counted is a little more literal when it comes to the 2020 Census. It’s not just about filling out another form (although it is that) — it’s about making one’s metaphorical voice heard. The census is the foundation of fair political representation in the United States. It’s also the base upon which we decide how to allocate taxpayer dollars, whether for public health services, school lunches, Medicaid, supplemental nutrition programs, or — you guessed it — community health centers.

If you care about any of those programs or if you rely on them to live your best life, your participation in the census is critical. This is especially important if you live in a community where a health center operates and where many historically disadvantaged people, who are often undercounted, live. Here in Michigan, estimates show that the state would lose $1,800 in federal funding for each person who goes uncounted in 2020. Without an accurate census count, these vulnerable communities could be deprived of vital public resources. 

However, we know the census can make people uneasy. Health centers serve vulnerable people and populations, and many people may (rightfully) be afraid of how their information will be used. Rest easy: by law, the Census Bureau cannot release any identifiable information about an individual, their home, or their business — even to law enforcement agencies. The census also won’t ask if you’re a citizen of the United States, what your Social Security number is, or how much money you make.


Here’s what it will ask:

  •  How many people live in your home? 
  •  What’s your phone number?
  •  What’s your sex, age, date of birth, and race?
  •  Do you own your own home?


Information such as names and phone numbers can help provide the Census Bureau clarity in case more than one person fills out a form. Demographic information helps the Census Bureau create accurate statistics that will be used for ensuring compliance with anti-discrimination laws as well as directing services toward specific communities. Information related to home ownership is largely seen as an indicator of the strength of the nation’s economy, and this data can help other branches of the government design housing programs. You can view a sample census questionnaire here.


This year, the Census Bureau is also trying to make responding to the census as easy as possible. Between March and July, individuals can respond online, by mail, by phone, or even in-person at specifically designated kiosks. Census documents are also available in multiple languages, and if you need more help, you can visit the MI Voice Counts website and enter your ZIP code to find a local agency that can give you a hand. Plus, if you haven’t responded by Census Day, April 1, the Census Bureau will send you reminder postcards, letters, and potentially conduct in-person follow-up. 


Remember: to get the most funding for your state and your communities, including your local community health center, don’t wait — respond as soon as you’re invited. Show up and be counted.

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