Sabina Bagirova, a community health specialist at ICHS. Photo courtesy of ICHS.

The time to respond to the 2020 Census is here. A reminder that even as we “stay home and stay healthy,” we can help support our communities by making sure our households are counted. The Census can be completed online, by phone or by mail. (Visit 2020census.gov for more information or to respond online). 

The results from the Census help determine how billions of federal dollars are used in states and communities each year. This is particularly significant for our diverse Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities, which is the fastest-growing racial group in the country. AAPIs are among the most historically undercounted communities. 

International Community Health Services (ICHS) is doing its part. Sabina Bagirova is a community health specialist at ICHS. She is part of a team that is available to help with questions. The team also helps connect individuals and families to other resources such as finding food, health insurance, and free cancer screenings.

We spoke with Sabina about her work in keeping communities informed about the 2020 Census.

How are you holding up and what is life currently like for you, particularly as a health worker, during the pandemic?

I work in the Bellevue clinic and, more recently, have been working remotely as I am following the Governor’s advice to “stay home and stay healthy.” I work with our patients and the community to connect people to health services, link them to resources, and support our communities through advocacy and civic engagement. I stay proactive and keep in touch with my community and organizations by reaching out over the phone and through email to inform and update them with important information that they need to know.

Why is it important that everyone complete the 2020 Census?

Everything from health clinics, fire departments, schools, to highways are impacted by data collected in the Census. The data also affects access to health care and representation in government. Filling out the Census will ensure that the needs of our communities are included in decisions that impact how federal resources are distributed. Ignoring the Census will have an effect on all of us, particularly people who need these resources the most, such as people with low incomes, immigrants and refugees, and people experiencing homelessness.

What do you think are some of the biggest barriers to completing the Census for people, particularly from underrepresented or historically undercounted communities?

The biggest barriers to complete census are lack of knowledge, fear of immigration status, and privacy concerns.

In your work to inform our communities about the Census, what are some common myths or misconceptions that you’ve had to clear up?

I have heard from people, “I don’t want my answers to be shared with other agencies.” Also, another one is “This is not important, I threw away.”

People are concerned about immigration status or sharing any personal information. However, I explain that the information is confidential and will not be shared with other agencies. By law, the Census Bureau cannot release any identifiable information about you, your home, or your business, even to law enforcement agencies under Title 13 of the U.S. Code. I show myself as an example and tell them that I have completed mine. I provide brochures about the Census in different languages and show where it says “the information you provide is confidential.”

For some people, responding to the Census is difficult because they don’t understand the material in English when they get a mail reminder. If mail reminders would come in different languages then more people would respond. 

Can you explain how non-English speakers will be able to complete the Census in their language?

There are options by phone and online that can be completed in various languages. Many brochures and flyers are in different languages to help people understand why the Census is important. 

How can people take action or help ensure that their communities are counted in the Census?

Launch a campaign on social media, inform other organizations that you work with to spread the word, drop off materials in various grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations, and highlight employment opportunities to be a Census taker. All these actions will help educate others. 

The Census relies on accurate data to ensure that our communities receive the federal funding and resources that we need. As we all continue to do our parts in the COVID-19 response during this worldwide pandemic, what do you think is the most significant thing that the historic shutdowns and impacts on our communities have brought to light?

I think that elder generations are most impacted. Most elderly need more in-person service because they are not computer savvy and need to ask for help and assistance. 

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ICHS community health specialists are available to help answer questions about the 2020 Census:

  • Ellen Huang (中文) 206-718-3895
  • Sabina Bagirova (Pусский) 206-379-6815
  • Elsa Anderson (Amharic, Tigrinya, Somali) 206-919-1378
  • Jiwon Kim (한국어) 206-327-1552

The Census Bureau offers live, non-English help by phone between 7 a.m. – 2 a.m. ET.

Below are phone numbers for help in specified languages:

English: 844-330-2020

Spanish: 844-468-2020

Chinese (Mandarin): 844-391-2020

Chinese (Cantonese): 844-398-2020

Vietnamese: 844-461-2020

Korean: 844-392-2020

Russian: 844-417-2020

Arabic: 844-416-2020

Tagalog: 844-478-2020

Polish: 844-479-2020

French: 844-494-2020

Haitian Creole: 844-477-2020

Portuguese: 844-474-2020

Japanese: 844-460-2020

English (Puerto Rico residents): 844-418-2020

Spanish (Puerto Rico residents): 844-426-2020

Telephone Display Device (TDD) 844-467-2020 will also be available for people who have hearing impairments. 

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