ICHS President and CEO Teresita Batayola. Photo courtesy of ICHS.

As we all do our part to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, many families are seeing first hand how important it is that all people, particularly our most vulnerable, have access to health care and other resources. 

The programs you and your family rely on to stay healthy and strong are funded based on Census data. This includes many programs that directly affect our non-profit health center, International Community Health Services (ICHS). Census data helps guide federal money to many of the health and nutrition programs that our families and children need to thrive. Programs like Medicaid, Medicare, food assistance and nutrition programs, public housing, and Head Start are all affected. For every 100 households not counted on the 2020 Census, the state could lose up to $5.8 million in federal money and in turn, affect ICHS.

With Census Day officially here on April 1, I remind everyone that physical distancing and other effects of the COVID-19 should not stop your household from completing the Census. You need just a few minutes and it will give you something to do while you’re stuck at home. Respond online at my2020census.gov, over the phone, or by mail using a paper questionnaire. Door-to-door reminders for those who haven’t responded will start in late May. The pandemic has pushed the deadline for the self-response phase to August 14.

The Census relies on accurate data to allocate federal funding and political representation. So getting an accurate 2020 Census count in the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities is critical. As the fastest-growing major racial or ethnic group in the country, it is important to make sure that AAPI communities are not invisible — and filling out the Census will ensure our community is counted and heard.

One in five Asian Americans and one in three Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders live in hard-to-count Census areas. AAPIs are among the most historically undercounted communities on the Census. An undercount of AAPIs will result in fewer federal dollars. 

People who need these resources the most — people with low incomes, people of color, immigrants and refugees, people experiencing homelessness — are most at risk of being undercounted. An inaccurate Census count will result in reduced resources that make it harder for health care providers like ICHS to provide preventative and primary care for you and your family, and to respond to public health threats like coronavirus.

These are challenging times – immigrants and refugees are wary and mistrusting of attack. The push to include a citizenship question has left lingering fears about participation, even though the question has been left off. Ironically, many of our current challenges can be confronted and reduced by ensuring an accurate Census count, especially among AAPI populations. Your time spent answering the 2020 Census is time invested in the health of our community. The information you give is confidential and won’t be shared with anyone. 

When our communities are fully counted, we get the resources we need to keep our families safe and strong. Please take the time to fill out the Census. Go a step further and remind your neighbor to fill out theirs. It’s critical for the health of our community.

Teresita Batayola is the President and CEO of ICHS. ICHS outreach staff are available to help with Census-related questions at: 206-379-6815. 

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