By Kara Wilkins
In the last few weeks, Americans have experienced unprecedented change in their daily lives. For some of us, this rapid shift in routine and lack of contact with our family, friends and colleagues has left us feeling discombobulated and, in certain cases, helpless. Many of us have expressed a desire to help those in need—even if it’s a small act from the comfort of our homes. During this time of anxiety for our state, and our nation, there is one thing we can all do to support our neighbors: complete the 2020 U.S. Census.
Right now, we are seeing our state grapple with the rapid spread of COVID-19. Under the strong leadership of Governor Asa Hutchinson and other elected officials, Arkansas has implemented extraordinary measures to help residents, companies, nonprofits and other organizations weather this national emergency. The state has expedited unemployment benefits, freed up working capital to provide small businesses with bridge loans and suspended SNAP work requirements to get food into the hands of the hungry. These actions, among the many others Arkansas has taken, will help many survive in a time of uncertainty. But they will require significant, and sustained, financial resources.
COVID-19 or not, Arkansas depends on funding from the federal government to succeed. That’s why participation in the U.S. Census is of upmost importance. The information gathered in the census determines the amount of funding we receive for education, healthcare, infrastructure and other essential services. Without these federal dollars, our state would not have the resources it needs to operate efficiently, in the height of crises or during times of normalcy. Even a one percent undercount of our state’s population, or approximately 30,000 people, could result in a loss of nearly $1 billion in funding.
To date, 140 million American households have received their first invitations in the mail to participate in the 2020 U.S. Census. While we are all at home over the next few weeks, we should visit My2020Census.Gov to complete these forms. Once we’re done, I challenge all of us to tell 20 friends, family members and fellow Arkansans to do it, too. With only 10 questions, it is simple and quick. And, in a time when we’re all practicing social distancing, it requires no human-to-human interaction. In fact, as the U.S. Census Bureau recently noted, “It has never been easier to respond on your own, whether online, over the phone or by mail—all without having to meet a census taker.”
COVID-19 may have temporarily limited our abilities to go about our daily lives. But we cannot allow it to stunt our state’s participation in the 2020 U.S. Census. Now more than ever, this virus reminds us of how important it is to ensure an accurate and representative count. By answering a few simple questions, we can help Arkansas receive the federal funding it needs to thrive, now and in the future.
Kara Wilkins is the coordinator of Arkansas Counts, a statewide, community-led initiative of Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, Arkansas Impact Philanthropy, Arkansas United and the Arkansas Public Policy Panel. For more information, visit arcounts.org.