United Way offering training for Census ambassadors

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Nonprofits are investing deeply in get-out-the-count efforts to ensure everyone in the region participates in the 2020 U.S. Census. This week, United Way for Greater Austin will launch a series of free training opportunities for anyone to learn and share information about the census. They say an accurate and complete count is critical to ensure that social service programs receive appropriate government funding. 

UWATX Census Ambassador Training

A free two-hour training for anyone committed to learn key aspects of the Census (what, why, who, when, where and how) and share information within their networks. To sign up for training and learn more about get-out-the-count efforts for the Central Texas 2020 Census, click here.

Information collected from the census is used to determine how infrastructure is planned and funded, how to apportion seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, how funding should be allocated for disaster recovery, and more. But it’s also used to determine how federal dollars are allocated to states and other partners for administering social service programs like school lunch programs, employment training, and Medicaid. When those services are underfunded, it falls to nonprofits and philanthropy to provide them. 

“The bottom line is that when the government isn’t fully funded, nonprofits have to pick up the tab,” said Mariana Salazar, United Way’s Census 2020 project director. “And we know there’s already so much pressure on them.” 

The training will review the mechanics of the census, which launches for most of the country in mid-March. And it will also teach ambassadors how to encourage census participation. Last year, proposed changes to the Census would have required participants to answer questions about citizenship. Though that proposal was struck down by the Supreme Court last June, immigration and refugee advocates  believe the specter of that question will keep those populations from participating for fear of sharing their status. 

Because the census is administered by the government every 10 years, Salazar says there are many populations – including immigrants – who may not know what it is or why it’s important. “Some of the major barriers I see include thinking the census is not important, not trusting the government, or having trouble completing the census either because of technology, literacy or language barriers,” she said.   

The training, she said, will, “educate people on the importance in a way that is relevant to their lives. By connecting the census to our everyday lives, we can instill a sense of hope, connecting participation to the notion of having a voice and love for our communities.”

The training is open to anyone, including those representatives from nonprofits who were recently awarded grants to help get-out-the-count. In December, United Way for Greater Austin announced grants totaling $395,000 to 17 community-based partners to promote the census. According to United Way, Texas has one of the largest risks of an under-count, due to a large number of hard-to-count populations, such as young children, immigrants, rural residents, and people experiencing homelessness. In Central Texas, a one percent under-count would result in a $25 million loss in federal funding per year over the next 10 years based on 2010 Census estimates.

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