The city of Bellevue has committed $50,000 to the regional census fund to support outreach to communities which have been hard to count in the past.
Every 10 years the city of Bellevue conducts its census in accordance with federal law. In preparation for the 2020 census, the city aims to reach out to as many communities in the city as it can to make sure they encourage everyone to respond.
The city is contributing $50,000 to the regional census fund to support outreach to what the city identifies as “hard to count” communities. Those communities may be hard to count due to housing instability and language barriers.
Mike McCormick-Huentelman, assistant director of community development, said an accurate census is important because those numbers are used to allocate federal dollars to states and local municipalities. That money then goes back into transportation, housing, planning and education.
“The funding allows for local community organizations who have established networks and connection to bring information about the census to the community and the people they serve,” he said. “One of the things we depend on, is the trusted networks of local community organizations — it allows those agencies to apply for grants through the Seattle Foundation which now has collectively raised over a million dollars to be able to get the word out about the census and make sure everyone is counted.”
In Bellevue, McCormick-Huentelman said 39 percent of residents are foreign born and the city has seen large population growth since the 2010 census. For 17 percent of the population, the 2020 census will be their first.
Some of the hard-to-count communities he cited include people experiencing homelessness, young adults who do not have a consistent residential address, people with limited English skills, and even parents forgetting to count newborn children.
The regional census fund accepts applications from community organizations to fund these outreach efforts. The first deadline for applications was on May 15, but another round of applications will be accepted this fall.
“We want to encourage organizations like the Eastside Refugee and Immigrant Coalition and the Muslim Community and Neighborhood Association,” he said. “Groups that are known on the Eastside to participate and apply for funds. Those are trusted organizations in our community.”
Organizations that receive funding are able to appoint an outreach leader and directly spread awareness of the census to their own community — directly bypassing any barriers, such as language, that could exist between Regional Census Fund staff and residents of the city.
Having an accurate census is important to the city not just for the next year, but impacts federal funding for the next decade. McCormick-Huentelman cited that since 2010, the city of Bellevue received more than $76 million in federal dollars for transportation, $7.1 million for parks, and $5.8 million in Community Development Block Grants for human services.
“If you are looking at the amount of investment the city receives, those numbers are all tied to an accurate census count,” he said. “Ensuring an accurate census count ensures future investment in the the city and community for the next 10 years.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: This story incorrectly reported the amount of federal funds. The city received more than $7.1 million for parks.