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Census Count Continues Amid Coronavirus Closures


Tuesday, March 17, 2020   

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Amid the chaos of the coronavirus pandemic, Missourians are being reminded about an important civic duty. Households now are receiving 2020 census invitations in the mail, but responses also can be completed online or by phone.

Missouri receives roughly $16 billion in federal funds each year based on census data, so Courtney Pinkham-Martin, 2020 Census Complete Count coordinator with the Southwest Missouri Council of Governments, said an accurate count is crucial.

"It is part of the constitution that we do take our census, and everyone matters," Pinkham-Martin said. "And it's just important we all do our part to count everybody and to make sure that we get the best community that we can get out of this."

She added ensuring kids are counted is especially important. Children younger than age 5 are by far the most under-counted age group in the census, and young black and Hispanic children are missed at more than twice the rate of young white children.

Census Day is April 1, and data collection is expected to end July 31. So far, more than 5 million responses have been submitted to the 2020 census online.

Deborah Stein, network director with Partnership for America's Children, said nearly 2 million kids age 5 and younger were missed in the 2010 census, and advocates fear twice as many young children could be missed in 2020. She said programs that help give children their best start in life rely on census data, including Medicaid, CHIP, special education and child care.

"You want to make sure there's funding for your schools and for all the services your child needs, because the consequences of missing a child lasts a decade, and that's most of their childhood," Stein said.

Pinkham-Martin offered advice on how to count kids in co-parenting families, who are being raised by grandparents or who are in foster care.

"What we want people to look at when we take this snapshot of our population is where are you living April 1? If it's a split child situation, who has the child April 1? And that's who will claim the child on their census," Pinkham-Martin said.

For students in college, the Census Bureau said they should be counted according to the residence where they live and sleep most of the time.

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