The Lead

‘Everyone counts:’ Rally kicks off Pa’s 2020 census push

By: - January 13, 2020 4:33 pm

Department of Human Services Secretary Teresa Miller addresses the crowd at the Capitol’s main rotunda (Capital-Star Photo by Cassie Miller).

Pennsylvania second lady Gisele Fetterman thinks that everyone should be a part of the big picture when it comes to the 2020 census. 

Fetterman and state agency heads gathered in the Capitol Rotunda on Monday to make sure that everyone is included in the upcoming census count. 

A former undocumented immigrant, Fetterman said, “I never understood the big picture because I never felt a part of that big picture.” 

The 2020 Census is coming: What it is, how it works

Fetterman will set out on a statewide census tour later this month where she will meet with such  hard-to-count populations as low-income communities, the homeless and residents of rural Pennsylvania.

She’ll also stress the importance of participation in the 2020 census. The tour will include stops in Philadelphia, Centre, Erie, Allegheny, Lancaster and Luzerne counties.

“Having spent my career working to address issues of equity, I understand how the individuals at the greatest risk of not being counted are the same ones who would be disproportionately affected by an inaccurate count,” Fetterman said.

Three million Pennsylvanians depend on the services provided by the Department of Human Services, such as LIHEAP, SNAP, CHIP and Medicaid. All of which rely on census data to disburse funds and locate areas of great need, DHS Secretary Teresa Miller said.

Miller said the state’s hardest-to-reach population is children, because they often aren’t included in a household head count. 

Department of Labor and Industry Secretary Gerard Oleksiak said that rural populations are among the most difficult groups to count in the state.

Rural areas are home to 3.4 million Pennsylvanians. Yet, in the 2000 and 2010 census’ participation was only at 75 percent among rural Pennsylvanians – a number he would like to see increase this census year, Oleksiak said.

The Wolf administration is spending $4 million to ramp up census outreach efforts such as media campaigns, advertising the website and grassroots efforts to make sure every Pennsylvanian is counted, and with good reason, Oleksiak said.

“Not counting just 1,000 Pennsylvanians could result in the loss of $2 million in federal funding,” he said. “Just like voting, it is our civic duty to participate.” 

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