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The Importance of Counting Montana's Young Children in the Census

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Tuesday, March 17, 2020   

HELENA, Mont. -- The 2020 census is here, and officials are spreading the word that households shouldn't forget one chronically undercounted population: young children. In the 2010 census, 2 million kids from birth to age 5 nationwide were missed.

For Native Americans in Montana, the issue is compounded. Native Americans also are uncounted more often than the rest of the population. But Ta'jin Perez, field manager with the Billings-based organization Western Native Voice, said tribal leadership understands the importance of the census for young children, since it determines funding levels for programs such as Head Start.

"The consequence of an undercount means that there will be inherently an underfunding of very critical services for the future of our communities," Perez said.

Census numbers determine how $1.5 trillion in federal funding is spent every year, including for programs like the Children's Health Insurance Program and funding for children with disabilities.

Deborah Stein, network director with the Partnership for America's Children, said parents should know that filling out the census is a short process.

"Parents of young children are so pressed for time that if they think it's going to take a lot of time or they have to do it at a certain time, it becomes much harder to do it," Stein said. "So it's very important to tell them that it is takes 10 minutes. It's very easy and they can do it at home when it works for them."

Sarah Brannon, managing attorney with the ACLU Voting Rights Project, said there are always privacy concerns when giving personal information to the federal government. But she noted census data is safeguarded by the strongest privacy protections in federal law.

"It is against the law for the Census Bureau to disclose or publish any of the private information it collects as part of the census process that would identify an individual or their address or any of the personal information collected about that individual," Brannon said.

The census can be completed by phone or online at 2020census.gov.



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