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Renewed Calls to Ensure Minnesota Children are Counted in Census

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Census officials say they haven't pinpointed exact reasons as to why young children are undercounted, but they hope that issue doesn't arise in the 2020 count. (Adobe Stock)
Census officials say they haven't pinpointed exact reasons as to why young children are undercounted, but they hope that issue doesn't arise in the 2020 count. (Adobe Stock)
April 2, 2020

MAHNOMEN, Minn. -- The nation is almost at a standstill as the coronavirus pandemic unfolds, but that isn't stopping the 2020 Census from getting under way.

In Minnesota, residents are being reminded to ensure all children are counted, even those in temporary situations.

Minnesota has a strong reputation of participating in the census, scoring 81% in the 2010 count.

But the state isn't immune to issues of undercounting young children. Nationwide, at least 1 million were not accounted for in the last go-round.

Liz Kuoppala, executive director of Mahube-Otwa Community Action Partnership in west central Minnesota, says there's a common scenario where that can happen.

"Sometimes, youth who are pregnant or parenting are couch hopping and they don't know where they should be counted or where their young children should be counted," she explains.

Kuoppala adds there are fears that people doubling up at a home might get them in trouble with a landlord, but she says the census is confidential. She says people should count themselves wherever they are right now to ensure those areas get necessary funding.

The 2020 Census formally kicked off Wednesday, even as field operations have been delayed because of the coronavirus crisis. But residents still can fill out forms recently mailed to them, or provide information online.

Kuoppala's group, along with other organizations such as the Children's Defense Fund of Minnesota, say the census shapes federal funding over the next decade, including money for early childhood programs and SNAP benefits.

Kuoppala says that's why it's important to fill out the forms, but many counties in her area are well below the current statewide response rate of 46%.

"This is just very concerning," she stresses. "Not only children would be missed, but the larger population as well."

Advocates say other factors that can lead to children being undercounted is mistrust in immigrant communities of the government, and grandparents temporarily raising their grandchildren

Mike Moen, Public News Service - MN