City of Seattle to Launch Census Assistance Centers
As part of her 2020 State of the City address, Mayor Jenny A. Durkan announced the City’s new actions to prepare for the 2020 United States Census. The City will open a series of Census Assistance Centers and launch other focused education efforts to help ensure all Seattle communities can know their rights and be counted. By mid-March, every household in Seattle will receive a letter from the U.S. Census Bureau, inviting them to fill out their Census form online. With the president trying to undermine the Census at every turn, and with this being the first-ever online Census, the City is working to break down barriers that could prevent historically undercounted communities from completing their Census forms.
The U.S. Census only happens once every 10 years, and the consequences of having an incomplete count are not just statistical: Residents’ lives could be significantly impacted for an entire decade. A complete Census count would ensure Seattle receives its fair share of federal resources, as significant funding is at stake for other federal programs that Seattle families and communities rely on, including Head Start, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and Medicare and Medicaid.
“As one of the fastest-growing cities in America, there’s a lot at stake for Seattle in this next Census. We know that everyone counts, and everyone needs to be counted, which is why we’re working to ensure our residents have the resources and information they need to participate in the 2020 Census,” said Mayor Durkan. “From fear surrounding the failed ‘citizenship question,’ to this being the first-ever online Census, there are significant barriers to a complete 2020 Census count. But our Census Assistance Centers, coupled with the efforts of our community partners, will help people participate in the Census, and ensure Seattle receives our fair share of federal resources.”
The City of Seattle is deploying four key strategies to ensure a complete, safe Census count:
- City staff at all Seattle Public Library (SPL) branches and all Seattle Parks and Recreation community centers will be prepared to answer questions about the 2020 Census;
- Starting March 12, every Seattle Public Library branch will have computers available for communities to fill out their Census form, regardless of whether they have library cards;
- On April 1, the Seattle Public Library will host Census Assistance Centers at the Lake City, Rainier Beach and Ballard branches; and
- On April 15, community centers at Alki, Delridge, Garfield, High Point, Jefferson, Rainier, South Park, and Yesler will host Census Assistance Centers.
“Seattle is committed to using its resources and supporting community organizations and networks to ensure a full, fair, accurate, and informed census count,” said Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda (Position 8, Citywide). “Through Census Assistance Centers, the City is changing the way it engages with our communities, and having conversations with our residents where they live, work, and rest. Full participation in the 2020 Census will ensure adequate funding for our City, and bring needed resources back to our historically undercounted communities. But the Census isn’t just about funding, it’s also about having a voice, being counted, and local resistance to this administration’s harmful policies.”
At Census Assistance Centers, community members can receive technical assistance when filling out their online Census form, get their questions answered about how Census information is used, and learn more about why the Census is important. A full list of Census Assistance Center times and locations is available here.
“As Seattle’s immigrant and refugee population continues to grow, it’s important that we are prepared for a fair and accurate 2020 Census count. The federal funding we receive as a result of the Census is critical to supporting the success and well-being of the communities that make up the fabric of our great city. I’m glad to see the City of Seattle open these assistance centers, which will help our communities, especially immigrant and refugee communities, get counted in the 2020 Census,” said Mahnaz Eshetu, Executive Director of ReWA.
“So many of our necessary community resources are determined by the Census, whether that be transportation, food access, health care or education. If we are not all counted, we will be competing for crumbs to support our families and communities,” said Michelle Merriweather, President and CEO at Urban league of Metropolitan Seattle. “There is also an impact on political representation. Who we vote for depends on legislative districts, which move every 10 years depending on how many people are counted. Our representation in Washington, D.C. is solely determined by the Census. If we want fair and equitable representation, we need to be counted.”
In addition to the Census Assistance Centers, every single staff member at The Seattle Public Library and Seattle Parks and Recreation community centers will be trained to answer questions related to Census 2020 and help communities complete their forms. And, starting March 12, every SPL branch in Seattle will have computers reserved exclusively for residents to fill out their Census questionnaire. Any community member can use these Census-reserved computers, regardless of whether they have an SPL card.
“Seattle Department of Neighborhoods works every day to elevate community voices, and the 2020 Census is only of the most significant issues for Seattle communities,” said Andrés Mantilla, Director of the Department of Neighborhoods. “We are closely working with community-based organizations along with our ethnic media to ensure we are engaging all communities across Seattle and making it easier for them to participate in the Census.
Throughout 2019, the City of Seattle partnered with community-based organizations to lay the groundwork for a complete and safe Census count. The Mayor regularly convened her Seattle Census Task Force to advise on pressing Census issues, including lack of federal funding, the citizenship question, and continued anti-immigrant policies being pursued by the president. The City was also a significant contributor to the Regional Census Fund, which allocated millions of dollars to community-based organizations throughout King County working to get a complete Census count. Finally, the City issued its first-ever Ethnic and Minority Media Fund to grant a total of $150,000 to local ethnic media so they could raise awareness about the importance of the Census.
The City of Seattle’s fight for a fair, safe and complete Census count is part of our work as a Welcoming City. For more information on our Welcoming City policies, please visit this website: www.seattle.gov/welcoming.