COVID-19 has changed many things about our everyday life and caused big events to be pushed to a later date. Concerts were cancelled, major league sports delayed their seasons, and even the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo were rescheduled for 2021. But one thing that hasn’t changed or been postponed is the 2020 Census.
Article I, Section 2 of the United States Constitution states the nation’s population must be counted every 10 years. Despite the challenges COVID-19 has created in our country, we must fulfil our constitutional obligation to complete the Census.
Responses ensure each community gets its fair share of federal funding for schools, roads, emergency services and other public services. When disasters strike our communities and we need federal assistance, the amount we receive is based on the Census numbers. Last year, we experienced historic and devastating floods throughout eastern Oklahoma, and we were able to get federal help to recover. If residents had not responded to the last Census, we may not have received as much aid as we did. Oklahoma is no stranger to severe weather and neglecting to complete the Census could impact the recovery from the next disaster we face.
The Census also determines how many congressional seats each state gets, which impacts your representation at the federal level. It’s important you use your voice in the Census so your state’s priorities adequately represented in Washington. We don’t want representatives from California or New York to dictate how we live in Oklahoma.
Currently, Oklahoma only has a 59 percent response rate across the state. That puts us in the bottom ten of all the states in the country. My district, the Second Congressional District, is the lowest in the state with a 48 percent response rate. Tribal areas across the country also have dismal responses, with very few breaking 50 percent.
In the last Census, American Indians and Alaska Natives living on reservations and in traditional villages were undercounted by almost 5 percent, which is twice the undercount of the next closest population group. Undercounts result in fewer resources to the communities and Indian Country shouldn’t be left further behind.
We must do better than this. Our communities cannot afford to miss this opportunity.
Your time is running out. The deadline is the end of this month, September 31st. Filling out the Census only takes a few minutes and failing to take those few minutes will cost your community. Even if you got the questionnaire months ago and threw it away, it’s not too late to complete it. Go to my2020census.gov to complete the survey.
By Congressman Markwayne Mullin.