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Counting Kids in Census Critical to Combat Effects of Pandemic

Researchers estimate more than 1 million children were missed in the U.S. population count for the 2010 Census. (Adobe Stock)
Researchers estimate more than 1 million children were missed in the U.S. population count for the 2010 Census. (Adobe Stock)
May 11, 2020

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- Arkansas households can fill out their 2020 Census form online or by phone; that's the message children's advocacy groups want residents to know as the coronavirus pandemic stalls door-to-door outreach efforts.

Every uncounted Arkansan means less money for the state - for everything from repairing roads to school lunch programs and community health centers. Laura Kellams, northwest Arkansas director at Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, said funding for programs like CHIP, Medicare and Medicaid, and food assistance such as SNAP also is tied to accurate census data.

"This national health emergency is really a good reminder that we need to have an accurate count, because so much of what we're using to get our community through this are the types of programs that are directed by census numbers," Kellams said.

One report found Arkansas received nearly $10 million in federal funding in 2016 for more than 50 federal programs, all based on data from the 2010 Census.

For more information about completing the 2020 census, visit arcounts.org.

Kellams added counting kids is even more urgent as public libraries, child-care centers and other community locations that typically would help families complete the census forms have closed in the COVID-19 crisis. She said the state is experimenting with new ways to reach people.

"The state's largest school district - in Springdale, Arkansas - sent home information packets about the census with the packets that they're sending kids and families to make sure that their schoolwork continues while they're at home," she said.

She pointed out the state's population has changed in the last few decades, and the new census needs to reflect that.

"And the growth is actually in communities that are even more likely to be undercounted - so, children in immigrant families, children whose families are less likely to speak English at home," she said. "So, we just have to make sure that we're creatively really finding good ways to reach those families."

According to the Urban Institute, in 2018, around 76,000 children in Arkansas had at least one immigrant parent.

Nadia Ramlagan, Public News Service - AR