Walz kicks off year-long effort to ensure full 2020 census count

April 2, 2019

MINNEAPOLIS — With a seat in Congress and federal money hanging in the balance, Gov. Tim Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan kicked off a yearlong effort Monday to ensure that every Minnesotan is counted in the 2020 census.

“The ability to have a fair democracy is incumbent on every single person being counted,” Walz said at a rally in the Capitol rotunda. “Once the census is done and we start to use that data … we can provide better services to improve people’s lives.”

At stake is about $15 billion a year in federal funding that is apportioned by population. Although Minnesota’s population is growing, the state is at risk of losing one of its eight U.S. House seats because other states, particularly in the Sun Belt, are growing faster. That would dilute the state’s influence on Capitol Hill.

Walz’ budget proposes spending $1.6 million on census efforts; a measure pending in the Legislature would up the amount to $2.5 million.

Flanagan said that an undercount of a single person could result in the loss of $28,000 in federal funds over a decade. The money goes to roads, schools, hospitals, senior centers, emergency services and many other social programs.

For months, county and city organizations and community groups have been meeting and organizing efforts to spread the word about the count.

“We need to get the public educated, engaged and committed to being a part of the census in 2020,” said Marilyn A. Sanders, the Chicago-based regional director of the U.S. Census Bureau.

She attended Monday’s rally and said in an interview that a broad public-relations campaign will begin in November to raise awareness via TV ads and social media. “If people know the importance of the census, we believe that they will participate,” she said.

There’s concern that some people in minority communities will be reluctant to fill out census forms because President Donald Trump’s administration wants to add a question about citizenship status.

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to decide on the controversial citizenship question; a hearing is expected this month.

X.P. Lee of the Hmong Census Network is helping Brooklyn Center prepare for the census and urged the state’s 70,000 Hmong residents to participate. “Don’t let anybody scare you away. … Fill out that form,” said Lee, a member of the statewide Complete Count Committee.

Muse Jama of Shoreview was at the rally to represent the Somali community and held a sign reading “We Count.”

“I am very conscious that my community does not really know about the importance of the census,” he said. “There’s also fear.” The best way to overcome that, he said, “is to get more soldiers, troops to spread the word.”

At stake is about $15 billion a year in federal funding that is apportioned by population. The state is at risk of losing one of its eight U.S. House seats.