Prince George's CountyWilliam J. Ford

Prince George’s Forms Committee for Accurate Census Count

Prince George’s County has formed a committee to ensure next year’s census accurately counts the mostly Black jurisdiction.

To ensure a precise count, census information will be distributed and discussed at 100 countywide events with at least two dozen county agencies, businesses and local nonprofit organizations to support the effort.

A Census 2020 Complete County Committee, led by Planning chair Elizabeth Hewlett, briefed the county council Tuesday, July 2 on the effort, which she called an “all hands on deck” situation.

“We want the best for our residents and that means having the best possible count,” she said. “We’re going to work really, really hard through our ambassadors to reach out to our communities to let them know what the census means.”

Some of those ambassadors included nonprofit organization such as CASA de Maryland, which received a more than $447,000 state grant to help with census outreach efforts in Prince George’s and other counties.

Four municipalities in the county also received state grants: Forest Heights ($59,000), College Park ($34,385), Seat Pleasant ($18,626) and Greenbelt ($15,000).

A 2018 Prince George's County map outlines "hard-to-count areas," or locations in the county with low responses in census data. (Courtesy of M-NPPC)
A 2018 Prince George’s County map outlines “hard-to-count areas,” or locations in the county with low responses in census data. (Courtesy of M-NPPC)

Although the county received a $244,200 grant, officials said help will be needed to not only spread the word, but ensure residents with limited English also fill out census forms with the process, running from March 12 through Census Day on April 1.

The county will print out mailers, brochures and other materials in both English and Spanish. Next year’s census count will also be the first that participants can complete online.

The Supreme Court ruled last month that the Trump administration couldn’t include a question on the 2020 census form about citizenship, saying the addition “appears to have been contrived.” The Justice Department initially confirmed that it was no longer pursuing the matter, but Trump ordered the Justice and Commerce departments to keep trying.

Statewide committees have been created to conduct outreach efforts in Maryland.

Jurisdictions in the D.C. region continue to push for residents to participate in the census, which by law must be done every 10 years.

The D.C. mayor’s office will lead with a $2.5 million investment from this year’s budget “to ensure everyone is counted.”

Arlington County, Virginia, which will house Amazon’s second headquarters, plans to feature an “Arlington COUNTS” theme at its annual county fair Aug. 16-18.

Meanwhile, Prince George’s County continues to fight a federal lawsuit it joined in March 2018 with the NAACP, its county chapter and two residents against the Trump administration and the Census Bureau “to combat the imminent threat that the 2020 census will substantially undercount African Americans and other people of color in communities throughout the United States.”

According to the suit, the county experienced one of the highest undercounts in the nation at 2.3 percent during the 2010 census. The figures are based on counties with a population of at least 100,000.

Former County Executive Rushern L. Baker III said that because of census undercounts, the county lost $200 million in federal money toward improvements in schools, roads and other needs.

A court document outlines an Aug. 28 deadline for discovery, or exchange of information and other statements between the plaintiffs and defendants.

As for the county’s 2020 census count, a map on the county website shows the majority of low responses happened in neighborhoods inside.

During a census briefing in Upper Marlboro last week, Councilwomen Jolene Ivey and Deni Taveras stressed to remember other residents who are natives of other countries.

“These are people who may have just got here and just don’t speak any English,” Ivey said. “It’s just so important that we get everybody.”

James Cannistra, chief of the Information Management Division at Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, said 12 different languages are represented in areas with high immigrant populations.

“Within those communities, we’ll try to identify a liaison or ambassador to represent that community,” he said.

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William J. Ford – Washington Informer Staff Writer

I decided I wanted to become a better writer while attending Bowie State University and figured that writing for the school newspaper would help. I’m not sure how much it helped, but I enjoyed it so much I decided to keep on doing it, which I still thoroughly enjoy 20 years later. If I weren’t a journalist, I would coach youth basketball. Actually, I still play basketball, or at least try to play, once a week. My kryptonite is peanut butter. What makes me happy – seeing my son and two godchildren grow up. On the other hand, a bad call made by an official during a football or basketball game makes me throw up my hands and scream. Favorite foods include pancakes and scrambled eggs which I could eat 24-7. The strangest thing that’s ever happened to me, or more accurately the most painful, was when I was hit by a car on Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia. If I had the power or money to change the world, I’d make sure everyone had three meals a day. And while I don’t have a motto or favorite quote, I continue to laugh which keeps me from driving myself crazy. You can reach me several ways: Twitter @jabariwill, Instagram will_iam.ford2281 or e-mail, wford@washingtoninformer.com

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