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Published 05/08/2020 | Reading Time 5 min 29 sec
By Kyle Ofori, Director of Community Partnerships with the City of Tulsa
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 Census may not be top of mind for most of us. However, it’s closely tied to all of the things that we are thinking, worrying, and praying about, especially in the Black community.
There are three things I refer to often when talking about what the Census supports: schools, roads, and hospitals. They seemed like parts of everyday life just two months ago, but now, at least two of them are a lifeline for our communities around the country.
The importance of healthcare during the pandemic is clear. Medicaid, Medicare, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program provide many of us with access to affordable healthcare.The amount of money that Oklahoma can access to support those programs depends on our Census count. Responding to the Census is one way we can increase our access.
If there has ever been a time to appreciate our teachers, principals, and all those who make our schools run, it is now. Not only have they changed the way they educate our kids in a matter of weeks, but they’re also providing meals and pointing families to crucial resources.
How does the Census relate to this?
The majority of schools in Tulsa Public Schools receive Title I Funding, which depends on the count of school-aged children. School lunch programs also depend on that count, as does funding for the Head Start programs where our youngest go to learn.
Within the Black community, many of us feel we do not have a voice in the things that matter. Or, we know our voices have been ignored time and time again. It’s not easy for us to trust things like the Census when we know there are more barriers to the resources we need and deserve than simply filling out a form.
However, responding to the Census is a way to push for change. Our communities have been undercounted for decades, and that has impacted funding for programs that serve us.
It’s more than just hospitals and schools; funding for affordable housing, food assistance through SNAP and WIC, and Tulsa Transit are also impacted, and the results of each count last for the next ten years. None of us go a week without interacting with some system meant to benefit us that is supported by the Census count.
Getting counted on the Census is a way to be represented, to be heard, to say “I am a part of this community”, that cannot be taken away. It doesn’t matter how old you are, what your birth country or your citizenship is, or whether you have been in jail or prison before.
While working on the Census, I have talked to many people in Tulsa’s Black community who recognize this power: pastors, doctors, business leaders, writers, organizers, volunteers. None of them are under the impression that this country has fulfilled all of its promises to us as a people, but they all see how important it is that we take this opportunity to be counted.
Answering the nine questions on the Census can lead to a large positive impact in Tulsa over the next ten years. For those concerned with safety, it’s worth knowing what those questions are.
What the Census Will Ask
You are asked to share your name, age, sex, race and ethnicity, relationship with other people in your household, and a question about who owns the house.
What the Census Won’t Ask
There are no questions about your citizenship, your political views, your earnings, or any other sensitive information. Some of us share more with near-strangers on social media than the Census would ask you for.
Finally, Title 13 and Title 26 of the US Code say Census Bureau employees cannot share your individual information with anyone, or they could be fined up to $250,000 and imprisoned for up to 5- years.
The COVID-19 pandemic has sharpened my perspective on a lot of things, but the biggest lesson is that every one of us has a role to play in the health and well-being of our society. That means all of our perspectives need to be represented. I do my work so we can move closer and closer to this in Tulsa; by getting counted in the Census this year, you can, too.
“Visit https://my2020census.gov or call 1-844-330-2020 to complete the 2020 Census today.”
Kyle Ofori serves as the Director of Community Partnerships with the City of Tulsa. His main focus is the 2020 Census outreach efforts, and he also participates in equity-focused community engagement efforts with projects led by different City of Tulsa departments. He is dedicated to eliminating racial and class barriers to opportunity through work in community and economic development.