April 25, 2019
Mass. Nonprofits Exhorted to Advocate for Fair Census Count

August 16, 2018 — The Massachusetts Nonprofit Network, the state's nonprofit trade association, recently issued an appeal to nonprofits to advocate for a full and fair count in the 2020 Census and oppose the inclusion of a citizenship question.

"The 2020 Census will present unprecedented challenges, including the first all-digital census, a potential citizenship question, and ongoing funding challenges. The nonprofit sector has a key role to play in ensuring a fair and accurate Census count," the Massachusetts Nonprofit Network (MNN) said.

It added, "MNN encourages nonprofits, foundations, businesses, and residents of the Commonwealth, as well as local, state, and federal policymakers, to work collaboratively over the next two years to ensure that everyone in the Commonwealth is counted – and counts."

Census counts will shape the allocation of more than $16 billion in federal funds for Massachusetts, and an inaccurate count could lead to the loss of $2,372 of federal funding per year for each person not counted, MNN said.

David Moy, senior program officer for the Boston-based Hyams Foundation, which aims to increase economic, racial, and social justice and power in Boston and Chelsea, quoted in MNN's recently published Commonwealth Insights, said, "It will be difficult for nonprofits to realize their mission without having enough public resources, and the only way to ensure the resources is to make sure that everyone is participating to get an accurate count."

Adding to concerns surrounding the 2020 Census is the proposed inclusion of a question that asks everyone living in the United States whether they are citizens. Attorney general Maura Healey last spring joined a coalition of 18 attorneys general who argue that, by adding a citizenship question, the Census Bureau will cause significant decrease in participation, resulting in a dramatic population undercount.

The attorneys general contend that an undercount violates the constitutional purpose of the Census—to conduct an accurate count of all people in the nation—which threatens states’ fair representation in Congress and the Electoral College, and will deprive states of a fair share of billions of dollars in federal funding.

Brooke Mead, executive director of Berkshire Immigrant Center, a Pittsfield nonprofit that helps immigrants to settle in western Massachusetts, cited by MNN, said, "If we can’t prove there are enough immigrants in the Berkshires (even though I know there are), it would be harder to make that argument and it could mean less money and less assistance."

MNN suggests that nonprofits:
  • Think critically about the role your organization can play and how the Census relates to your mission.

  • Join collaborations already working on the Census, such as complete count committees.

  • Add Census education and outreach into their public education and communications plans.

  • Advocate for full funding of the Census and oppose the inclusion of a citizenship question.

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