Michigan 2020 Statewide Census Director Kerry Ebersole Singh speaks March 3 at the Macomb Intermediate School District building in Clinton Township about the census and its importance. The panel also included Attorney General Dana Nessel, Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel, Macomb Community Action Director Ernest Cawvey, and Chaldean Community Foundation President Martin Manna.

Michigan 2020 Statewide Census Director Kerry Ebersole Singh speaks March 3 at the Macomb Intermediate School District building in Clinton Township about the census and its importance. The panel also included Attorney General Dana Nessel, Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel, Macomb Community Action Director Ernest Cawvey, and Chaldean Community Foundation President Martin Manna.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


State, local officials tout importance of census participation

By: Nick Mordowanec | C&G Newspapers | Published March 11, 2020

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MACOMB COUNTY — Citizens in Macomb County and all across Michigan are being implored to “Be Counted.”

On March 3, at the Macomb Intermediate School District building in Clinton Township, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, Michigan 2020 Statewide Census Director Kerry Ebersole Singh, Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel, Macomb Community Action Director Ernest Cawvey and Chaldean Community Foundation President Martin Manna discussed the importance of the 2020 census and how it impacts local citizens and businesses.

The census is being mailed in waves, between March 12 and 20, and will also be able to be filled out online with a simple nine-question form that includes: name, age, sex, race, ethnicity, telephone number, amount of people living or staying in a household, additional number of people staying in a household on April 1, 2010, and whether homes are owned or rented.

Citizens will be allowed to fill out the mailed form in three languages, along with 12 languages via phone and 59 languages online. Area of residence is defined by the residence and location where individuals most “live, sleep and eat” — such as students in a college town, or snowbirds.

Singh said that an estimated 200,000 Michiganders were hard to count during the last census in 2010, including many in southeast Michigan. Those numbers include homeless individuals, those who live with a friend or family member for longer than a temporary duration, or young children of divorced parents.

A lack of counting negatively impacts the state. Singh mentioned how the state recently brought in about $30 billion in federal funding, for initiatives related to road infrastructure, health programs, education and public safety, etc. That loss of counting the 200,000 or so equates to about $437 million lost per year.

In 2010, 78% of the state’s population completed the census. Census campaign leaders want to achieve an 82% participation rate this year.

“These are federal tax dollars we are already paying,” Singh said.

The effects are also felt on a national level. Congressional seats are allocated based on population, and in 2010 the state of Michigan actually lost a seat. Singh said that although the state’s numbers overall are increasing, it is not growing as fast as states like Florida or Texas — bigger mass areas with more national representation.

“I really can’t overstate the importance of this. … This is our money, and we shouldn’t just be a donor state,” Nessel said.

Nessel acknowledged that some people are afraid to divulge their personal information, especially to the government. She stressed that census forms are confidential and cannot be used against any individual by any governmental agency, such as the FBI or ICE.

The census form does not ask people to give their social security number. Nessel said it’s “kind of ironic” some are worried about giving relatively general information when they already provide more information for tax purposes, to cellphone carriers, to credit card companies and to banking institutions.

“There’s so many scams out there, but this isn’t one of them,” she said.

She said privacy is at the forefront of this endeavor. Major companies, like Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Facebook, are working by monitoring social media, buying 100 web domain names to prevent look-a-like websites from infiltrating search engines, providing encryption and two-way authentication via phone and email verifications.

“The disinformation campaigns really do harm to our census count,” she added.

U.S. Census Bureau workers, who must be at least 18 years of age and pass a background check, that violate confidentiality are subject to $250,000 fines and/or up to five years in prison. Personal information is naturally released 72 years after the fact.

Hackel said “2020 is about bringing back the money.” MISD Superintendent Michael DeVault said results help allocate funding for the future of the school system.

Cawvey said he and other county departments have developed a footprint — be it advertisements in government buildings or working with organizational partners to publicize the census via flyers, postcards and banners. When food is delivered through the “Meals on Wheels” program, beneficiaries are provided information.

 

‘A seat at the table’
Manna said the key to getting Chaldean members of his community to provide their information is to build trust, by developing a rapport and speaking the same language, so to speak.

He said that about 44,000 Chaldeans were counted in Michigan. He and others thought there was “a massive undercount.” Using data analysis, it was later estimated that the total population was about 160,000. He said those 110,000 persons can be the difference between “having a seat at the table” or not.

“I think a lot of immigrant communities are underserved or hard-to-count communities,” Manna said. “But in the case of the Chaldean community, most fled persecution. They came here as immigrants, whether it was during Saddam Hussein or more recently from the Gulf Wars that took place. Even with the challenges of ISIS and the genocide that occurred against our community, there has been this long fear of government — that they’re not working for them, but working against them.

“A lot of what we’re trying to do is an educational campaign. Chaldeans have excelled, been given religious and economic freedom. They do extremely well here in Michigan. They contribute $11 billion to the economy, most are entrepreneurs. So we’re helping them understand: look what the U.S. has given to us. It’s important that we fill out these forms.”

He admitted “some pockets” of the community will be harder to convince to participate, notably newcomers and those with a language barrier. Manna said the goal is for them to not only hear the importance of the census from him, but also their counterparts in the community, such as faith-based leaders.

For more information, visit www.macombgov.org/census2020.

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