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You’ll complete the 2020 census online. Florida nonprofits warn that may be an issue

It won’t be long before April 2020 — and the next round of the U.S. census — is upon us. In the meantime, nonprofit groups are making sure everyone understands the ramifications of an accurate count.

In a free presentation Tuesday at the Manatee Community Foundation, 2820 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton, experts will discuss just how important it is for the state to do all it can for a fair count.

“A lot of people think it’s a federal thing and it’s just data, but the census affects many programs we know and use every day like school lunches, what we get for infrastructure, water districts and so many other things under that umbrella,” said Sabeen Perwaiz, executive director of the Florida Nonprofit Alliance.

Perwaiz and representatives from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Florida Philanthropic Network are set to explain the population count’s true impact. In Florida, more than a third of the state’s general revenues come from federal money that is sent out based on population data.

So what’s new this time around? It’s the first time the census is being pushed as an online survey, Perwaiz says. The new system is expected to save billions of dollars, but may come at the cost of leaving low-income residents, immigrants and refugees in the dark.

“We want to make sure people are equipped. A postcard is going to be sent to an address and not necessarily a person,” she said. “For us, that’s especially critical for migrant communities and rural counties because it’ll be relying on access to the internet.”

There are other bumps in the road, as well. Respondents often feel that the information they provide may ultimately be used against them for eviction, deportation or worse.

“There is a group deemed to be the hard-to-count community. Kids under the age of 1, renters, those below the poverty line, migrants with English as a second language,” Perwaiz said. “There’s a fear of government for those people.”

Their response won’t be used against them, but it will be used to inform the government’s decision to fund critically important processes in the area. On Tuesday, Perwaiz hopes to connect with and educate Manatee nonprofits on how they can mobilize to prevent misinformation regarding the census.

In order to prevent a miscount, local organizers are asked to spread the word about the census and encourage respondents to visit nearby libraries to complete the survey.

To register to attend the free event on Tuesday at 3 p.m., visit www.ManateeCF.org.

Ryan Callihan is the Bradenton Herald’s County Reporter, covering local government and politics. On the weekends, he also covers breaking news. Ryan is a graduate of USF St. Petersburg.
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