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Census 2020: Make sure you are counted

If you live off-campus during school, here’s what you should do

By John Lawson II, managing editor
On April 21, 2020

NEW ORLEANS (April 20, 2020) – With the 2020 Census under way, it is very important that everyone ensures they are counted, especially children, college students and people of color, according to a local official.

Orleans Parish School Board Member Ethan Ashley said, “When kids are not counted, and oftentimes they are not, the resources we would normally get from our federal allocations to be able to support our young people are limited.

“Children not being counted means that they ultimately do not obtain resources they should get. And we, here in New Orleans, cannot leave any resources off the table for our young people.”

The U.S. Census is designed to count every person in the country to produce data about the American people and the economy. The accuracy of this count, and the resulting funding and congressional representation, will affect communities over the next 10 years, until the next census.

Ashley said the Orleans Parish School Board is trying to create awareness for parents and guardians to ensure all children are properly counted.

“The OPSB has a responsibility to ensure that all of our parents know how important it is to complete the census and ensure that it is fully completed with all children, whether or not they are in their household or not,” he said.

“If you are responsible for them at some point in time, we want to make sure they are counted so that we can get the full resources to take care of our young people in order to get the services in our schools that they need and that they deserve.”

Ashley added that the school board’s responsibility, as it relates to the Census, goes beyond just the parents making sure students are properly counted.

“Awareness is probably the biggest thing that we can do as an organization to just make sure people know it is happening, in addition to where and how to fill it out,” he said. “If we can give any person any type of assistance and also make sure we are doing what we can on all of our platforms, whether that is social media and our web platforms, that is what we will do.”

Counting college students

A common question for college students is whether they should be counted at school or in their hometown. Newly re-elected Dillard University SGA President Traelon Rodgers encouraged students to be counted at school.

“Since it only happens every 10 years, we will not be students the next time the Census comes around,” Rodgers said. “It is important that we get counted in the places that need it the most and the places we are the most, which will be at the university.”

According to the federal website, 2020census.gov, students living at home should be counted at their home address. However, college students who live away from home should be counted at the on- or off-campus residence where they live and sleep most of the time, even if they are at home on April 1 or after because of spring break and/or the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the website, “An accurate count of students—temporarily displaced due to the pandemic—is critical for towns and cities that are home to large numbers of college students. Student populations factor into disaster planning and emergency response, public health analysis and planning, infrastructure planning, government funding allocations, and many more policy and program decisions.”

Each college or university is responsible for providing the Census Bureau with the number of students living in university-run housing. With campus closed because of the pandemic, the Census Bureau said it will reach out to schools and invite them to respond with the electronic option.

That means students living in on-campus or university-run housing SHOULD NOT complete the census online or by telephone.

However, students who lived off-campus and are not there to receive the census materials that were mailed to them should follow instructions for “Responding to the 2020 Census without a Census ID number” found at https://2020census.gov/content/dam/2020census/materials/partners/2020-01/Responding_Without_Census_ID_FAQ.pdf

Carlos Pollard, a junior criminal justice major from New Orleans, said undercounting students and minorities can have negative effects.

 “The Census is important to me because I have a lot of connections in people that live in impoverished neighborhoods and impoverished communities,” he said. “They don’t understand the importance of the Census and how important it is for our health and for what is going on in our communities and in our government.”

Rodgers emphasized that people of color must ensure they are counted.

“No matter where you are or no matter what resources you have, find some way to make your voice or your body count,'' he said. “This is the one time, no matter if you are a convicted felon or have a misdemeanor or if you can vote or if you’re underage, that the U.S. government actually cares about you as a person. So just make sure your voice is heard and that your body is counted.”

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