OKEECHOBEE — Having an accurate census count is important to our community, and local businesses can help make this happen. Celia and Joe Ward-Wallace, who own South LA Cafe, are passionate about the census, and they don’t just talk the talk, they walk the walk. Their business is located in a lower-income community of color and they took it upon themselves to promote the census and educate their community about the benefits of an accurate count. Mr. Ward-Wallace said, “The census is only counted once every 10 years, so the funding is absolutely important.” Their community is under-funded now, and he believes it has to do with the past census, people not reporting. “There are challenges with it, and we understand that.”
Mrs. Ward-Wallace said they see their role more as community leaders rather than as just business leaders and they take this very seriously. For the most part, filling out the census has been low on the list of priorities for people in their area, she said. To combat this, they have done things such as grocery giveaways or coupon giveaways if you complete the census. They came up with the idea when the pandemic first started. “People needed food,” said Mr. Ward-Wallace. “We started giving out 150 grocery bags every Wednesday, and after the first five or six of those, we realized, we had our community coming in. We had lines of people. Why not register them to vote? Why not get them counted on the census? It almost happened on its own.”
Because they have taken the time to build up a relationship with the community, there is a trust between the people of the neighborhood and the couple, so when they tell people the government is not trying to trick them into giving out information, the people believe them.
Mrs. Ward-Wallace said it might depend on your type of business. Some businesses are working from home. Some are open for business. Maybe you can utilize your social media platform. Utilize your email marketing platform. “We are really, really passionate about it and want to be a part of the change,” she said.
As of Sept. 15, the national average response rate was 92% for completing the census, but Florida had a response rate of 88.2% and Okeechobee County had a rate of 47.4%; Glades County was as 32.7%; Hendry County, 43.1%; Martin County, 67.2%; and Palm Beach County, 63.3%.
Patrick Jankowski of the Greater Houston Partnership (similar to a chamber of commerce) said Houston is not doing well, either. They are at about 57%. He believes this is partly because of a general mistrust of government among people in the community and a lot of negativity about citizenship questions on the census. When he tries to make a case for filling out the census, he explains that there will still be needs in the community even if the community does not get federal funds based on the census results. We will still need to build roads. We will still need to fund our schools. We will still need to provide indigent health care and lunch programs, etc.
If we do not receive funding through the census, we will have to find a source of revenue somewhere else, he explained. “That’s a euphemism for taxes. We can either get money from the federal government, or we can tax ourselves. It’s a lot easier to spend five minutes filling out a form than to pay higher taxes.” The Greater Houston Partnership encourages its members to reach out to their employees, post on social media, host meetings and make podcasts to encourage everyone they come in contact with to complete the census.
Have you wondered what questions are asked on the census? These are the questions on the 2020 census. All responses are completely confidential and cannot be released to any other agency for any reason. Every employee takes an oath to protect your personal information for life.
• How many people were living or staying in this house, apartment, or mobile home on April 1, 2020?
This helps us count the entire U.S. population and ensures that we count people where they live most of the time as of Census Day (April 1, 2020).
• Were there any additional people staying here on April 1, 2020, that you did not include in Question 1?
The goal of the 2020 Census is to count everyone just once and in the right place. We want to ensure that everyone in your home who should be counted is counted — including newborns, roommates and those who may be staying with you temporarily.
• Is this house, apartment, or mobile home …
…Owned by you or someone in this household with a mortgage or loan (including home equity loans)? Is it owned by you or someone in this household free and clear (without a mortgage or loan)? Rented? Occupied without payment of rent?
This helps us produce statistics about homeownership and renting. The rates of homeownership serve as one indicator of the nation’s economy. They also help with administering housing programs, planning and decision-making.
• What is your telephone number?
The Census Bureau asks for your phone number in case there are any questions about your census form. We will only contact you for official census business, if needed.
• What is Person 1’s name?
The Census Bureau asks a series of questions about each member of your household. This allows us to establish one central figure as a starting point.
• What is Person 1’s sex?
This allows us to create statistics about males and females, which can be used in planning and funding government programs. This data can also be used to enforce laws, regulations and policies against discrimination.
• What is Person 1’s age and what is Person 1’s date of birth?
The U.S. Census Bureau creates statistics to better understand the size and characteristics of different age groups. Agencies use this data to plan and fund government programs that support specific age groups, including children and older adults. (Read more about Counting Young Children.)
• Is Person 1 of Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin?
These responses help create statistics about this ethnic group. This helps federal agencies monitor compliance with anti-discrimination provisions, such as those in the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act.
• What is Person 1’s race?
This allows us to create statistics about race and to analyze other statistics within racial groups. These data help federal agencies monitor compliance with anti-discrimination provisions, such as those in the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act.
• Print name of Person 2.
The 2020 Census asks information about each member of your household. This question identifies the next person to refer to in the ensuing questions. This process repeats for each person in your home.
• Does this person usually live or stay somewhere else?
This question helps ensure that the Census Bureau is counting everyone once, only once, and in the right place. If you have questions about whether or not to include someone, visit Who To Count.
• How is this person related to Person 1?
This allows the Census Bureau to develop data about families, households and other groups. Relationship data is used in planning and funding government programs that support families, including people raising children alone.
Professor Andrew Reamer reminds everyone to think of the federal funds that are allocated to communities based on the census numbers. “The size of the pie does not change. For every person in your community who does not fill out the census, you lose money. You are gifting that money to every other place in America. Congress determines the size of the pie. The size of the pie does not depend on the census. Who gets what slice depends on the census.”