When Everyone Is Counted, Census Benefits Us All

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With April quickly approaching, we must look to the next pivotal opportunity to strengthen our voice: the 2020 census.

First and foremost, let’s separate fact from fiction. Despite what you may have heard, a citizenship question will not be included in the census. The proposed question was merely a failed attempt by those in Washington who want to deter our neighbors from being rightfully counted. It’s the same tactic being used to build walls and divide this country.

If you live here, you need to be recognized, period. Participation in the census is crucial in helping to unite Pennsylvanians and give our diverse communities the best chance at getting a fair share of billions in federal dollars.

Here’s how: federal funds, grants and support for Pennsylvania communities are largely based on population totals. In other words, when everyone is counted, we all benefit. However, it’s estimated the commonwealth will lose around $2,000 each year for every person left uncounted.

This turns into missed opportunities to help ensure our schools provide a quality education, hospitals deliver affordable care, roads are safe and local projects get done.

With so many families living below the poverty line, unemployed, and struggling to provide for their loved ones, the census plays a critical role in investing in vital programs, including Medicaid, Medicare, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children.

As a former business owner, I understand how census data can persuade entrepreneurs and real-estate developers to build locally, which can ultimately lead to new jobs and new homes in our area, along with plans to revitalize our neighborhoods.

Census participation also plays a significant role in putting power in the hands of voters, making sure you are represented.

Representation in the U.S. Congress is determined by population. Simply put, when more people are counted in the census, Pennsylvania has a better chance of gaining more seats in Washington.

At one point in time, the commonwealth held 36 seats in Congress; but fast-forward some decades, and we hold half of that in 2019. Losing seats is like losing your voice: No matter how loud you scream, very few can hear you.

Your voice is important now more than ever. It’s what makes this country a democracy and gives you the power to choose who best reflects the needs of families from all backgrounds.

As a first-generation Hispanic American and the first Dominican elected to serve in the Pennsylvania General Assembly, I am proud to see diversity driving Philadelphia’s growing population. According to Pew Research, more than 232,000 city residents were born abroad, which is an increase of 69% since 2000. The census must reflect this so we have the best chance of receiving the right support to move our communities forward.

Census Day is April 1, 2020, and this opportunity only comes once every 10 years.

We can’t let fear or uncertainty stand in our way. Remember, when everyone is counted, everyone benefits.

State Rep. Danilo Burgos is in his first term serving the 197th Legislative District. He serves on the governor’s Census 2020 Complete Count Commission.

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