Jamie Lee of SCIDpda. Photo courtesy of Jamie Lee.

Whether it’s the Chinatown International District, Othello, Lake Hills, Sunset or Beacon Hill, the census shapes neighborhoods and impacts everyday lives. From schools to businesses to public transit and the ability of community-based organizations to serve community, funding and decisions are informed by census data.

Chinese Information and Service Center (CISC) and the Seattle Chinatown International District Preservation Development Authority (SCIDpda) were formed in the 1970s by leaders and activists who shared a commitment to serve and respond to community. Over the decades, we have developed programs, services and infrastructure to support the hopes and dreams of a fast growing immigrant population in our region.

Michael Itti of CISC. Photo courtesy of CISC.

Counting everyone in the 2020 Census matters to ensure adequate federal funding reaches local communities to help families, youth and older adults thrive. The Chinatown International District is a neighborhood that has benefited from investments in affordable housing for families who can live near jobs and their elderly parents. Seniors are able to live independently with the assistance of caregivers and nearby social services. Children succeed when they have access to school breakfast and lunch programs.

SCIDpda and CISC received funding to support the 2020 census and ensure the communities we serve have a bright future. When we started preparing last year, we knew getting a complete count involved overcoming some big obstacles. We could not have imagined being faced with a global pandemic. 

The populations we serve have been historically undercounted and underrepresented in prior census counts due to many reasons, including no experience with the census, lack of information on how to participate, distrust of government, and lack of language access.

We are committed to helping clients and the broader community participate in the census by overcoming language and technological barriers. Through culturally relevant outreach to the community and language support, we are informing community members about the census, working to alleviate fears, and encouraging participation.

One of CISC’s strategies is getting our agency staff familiarized with the census to help their clients understand the importance. Since the fall of last year, we have provided monthly trainings for agency staff and are now incorporating census messaging throughout our programs. 

The SCIDpda convened the Chinatown International District Complete Count Committee in November 2019, and for the past several months, community organizations in the CID have met regularly to collaborate and develop strategies. Before the pandemic began, we hosted community events and trainings to raise awareness. The committee also developed translated guides and flyers. In addition, CISC has formed complete count committees for Russian and Chinese speaking community members who live in East King County and we are participating in the East King County Complete Count Committee.

Since the Governor’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order due to COVID-19, in-person census outreach and assistance in the CID have been significantly impacted. We have shifted to providing assistance over the phone and other technologies, such as WhatsApp and WeChat, and utilizing ethnic media and video messages.

The Census participation deadline has been extended until October 31, 2020. By now, you should have received a postcard invitation to complete the census online and a paper form in the mail. You can complete the census online at https://my2020census.gov or by phone through the national hotline at 844-330-2020. For further questions and assistance, you can contact CISC at 206-624-5633 and the SCIDpda at 206-838-8713.

Every person who completes the census will help shape their communities for the next 10 years through resources that will benefit lives.

Michael Itti is the executive director of the Chinese Information and Service Center, which serves immigrant communities in Seattle and East & South King County. Jamie Lee is the Director of Community Initiatives at the Seattle Chinatown International District Preservation and Development Authority, which does affordable housing and community development in the Chinatown International District.

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