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Census 2020: Redoubling Efforts to Count Kids 5 and Younger

Census numbers determine how the federal government distributes taxpayer dollars to states for education, food assistance, health care, housing and many children's programs. (U.S. Census Bureau)
Census numbers determine how the federal government distributes taxpayer dollars to states for education, food assistance, health care, housing and many children's programs. (U.S. Census Bureau)
June 16, 2020

DENVER --The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way nonprofits delivering in-home early-childhood development programs connect with families.

As the deadline for the 2020 census draws nearer, Heather Tritten, executive director at Parent Possible, said her group's home visitors are reaching out to families by phone to remind them that participating in the census is safe and critical for funding programs children younger than 5 years old depend on. Tritten said for Colorado, $13 billion each year in federal funding is at stake.

"We pay those taxes to the federal government, and counting everybody that we can in the state makes sure that we get our share back," Tritten said. "And we can use that money to fund things like health care, food assistance, schools, early childhood programs, roads - all of those things that the federal government kicks in on."

Children younger than 5 historically have been undercounted in census tallies, and children's advocates worry controversy surrounding attempts by the Trump administration to add a citizenship question to the census - a move ultimately blocked by the U.S. Supreme Court - could lead to an undercount.

Tritten said it's important for parents to know that participating in the census is safe and that it's illegal for census workers to share personal information gathered in the count with any individual or government agency. She said the data is confidential and cannot be used to determine eligibility for government assistance.

"Any information you're giving to the census is not tied back to you as an individual, but it is combined with all of your neighbors and everybody else in the state so that we know how many people are here, and we can draw down those important federal funds for Colorado," she said.

Tritten said all children younger than 5, even those not yet enrolled in school, need to be counted so that funding is in place when they do enter school. She said kids who split time between different households should be counted in the home where they spent more than half their time before April 1 of this year. She said babies also should be counted, even if they were still in the hospital on or before April 1.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO