Every Oregonian Counts


With the Census ending a month early, the pressure is on to get an accurate count of who lives in our state, with $19 billion on the line for Oregon.

STATEWIDE – Why does the Census matter? It determines how $1.2 trillion in federal money is divided among the states. As a result of the 2020 Census, Oregon could receive $19 billion of that to fund essential things like critical medical services, public schools, after-school care, SNAP food benefits, forestry grants, roads, bridges, and more for the next 10 years. With just over one month left until the Census count is completed, only around 66% of Oregonians have completed the Census. Our state stands to lose $46,000 in federal funding for every Oregonian who isn’t counted.

In addition to funding, the Census results also determine Congressional representation in D.C., which is our voice about decisions that affect our state and the entire country. If Oregon is counted accurately, we could receive an additional sixth seat in the House of Representatives.

“Our democracy’s strength relies on representation, and the 2020 Census is integral to making sure that Oregonians receive their fair share of federal resources and congressional representation over the next decade,” says Governor Kate Brown. “From more dollars for our schools and hospitals to ensuring our roads are safe and well kept, the census has a significant impact in the everyday lives of all Oregonians.”

The challenges faced by Census workers, called Enumerators, kept growing. The COVID-19 pandemic is disrupting work like going door-to-door that Enumerators usually do to connect with people who haven’t completed the Census. Getting an accurate count became even harder after a July 21 White House memo attempting to prevent undocumented communities from participating, even though the Constitution says that all residents in America should be included in the count, not just American citizens. This announcement understandably created community fear and mistrust in immigrant communities. As a result of challenges to getting an accurate count, the Census Bureau extended the response deadline to October 31.

Yet the situation became critical earlier this month, when the Trump administration decided to go back on that extension and end the 2020 census count four weeks early, despite the urgings of former heads of the Census Bureau and advocacy groups.

“This shorter timeline makes the job of Enumerators exponentially more difficult. Counting Oregon’s Black, brown, and indigenous communities is critical to a just and equitable Oregon, and ending the Census response early is a blatant attempt to undercount our communities,” says Esperanza Tervalon-Garrett, the Campaign Manager for We Count Oregon (WCO). “These communities are being purposefully left out of the political process, under-served, and trapped in unjust under-representation cycles. Our communities refuse to be unseen, unheard, and uncounted. We should be up in arms about the government’s refusal to stick to the extension.”

Working with the limited time left until the new September 30 deadline, We Count Oregon continues to develop and disseminate culturally-relevant materials that show Oregon’s Black, Brown, and underrepresented communities that the count is ultimately a civil rights issue and leads to funding and representation that’s critical to their families having an equitable future. We Count Oregon is partnering with artists, community leaders, and speakers at digital events to get out the count, as well as mobilizing youth to advocate that their families fill out the Census. They’re also doing phone banking to call people who haven’t responded yet and working with media partners including Univision Portland, Radio Poder, Warm Springs radio, and Flossin Media.

Above illustration by Esteban Jiminez; illustration at the top of the story is by Jenay Elder.

To help Oregon get our fair share, start by making sure you’ve completed your own household’s Census. Then use your social media accounts or word of mouth to help your friends and families understand the importance of the Census. You can also phone bank, write letters to the editor of your local newspaper about how important the Census is. You can reach out to your Congressional representative and express support for returning the census deadline to October 31.

“We cannot allow underrepresented communities to be blocked from being counted. We Count Oregon will continue to find creative approaches to engage our communities and rise above adversity until the last day of the count,” says Tervalon-Garrett.

For more information on ways to help, click on Download Our Toolkit on the We Count Oregon website.

About Author

Sarah Wexler is the Director of Strategic Communications in the Office of Governor Kate Brown

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