PROVIDENCE — The Rhode Island Foundation announced Tuesday that it will offer local organizations through the Rhode Island Census 2020 Fund $425,000 in grants in order to conduct outreach and education to help promote participation in next year’s census.
The Rhode Island Census 2020 Fund supports “awareness-building, outreach and engagement activities” so every Rhode Islander is aware of the census, as well as understands “the importance of being counted” and feels “safe, invested and easily able” to participate in the 2020 census.
“The core element of the plan is making sure that community and grassroots organizations have resources to do on-the-ground outreach with hard-to-count communities,” Rhode Island Foundation Executive Vice President of Strategy and Community Investments Jessica David said Tuesday.
Rhode Island Foundation will administer the program, which will offer the outreach grants between $1,000 and $25,000, in partnership with the Rhode Island Complete Count Committee. Corporations and philanthropists donated to the Census 2020 Fund for this initiative, David said.
The grants, the release states, are to support one-time or periodic activities for raising awareness about the census and the grants must focus on a “specific demographic community or geographic area” in Rhode Island at risk of being undercounted.
According to an interactive map provided by the Hard To Count 2020 website, 77.7% of the state’s households mailed back their 2010 census questionnaire, requiring “more costly and difficult in-person follow up” to count the remaining 22.3%.
“The Census Bureau had to count the remaining 22.3% of households in person during the Nonresponse Follow-up operation. But there is a greater risk that some people were missed or counted incorrectly during this follow-up,” the website states.
Additionally, the program’s goal, the release states, is to protect the approximately $3.8 billion in federal funding that Rhode Island receives annually based on census data for housing, education, health care and other initiatives. Census data is also used to reapportion U.S. House seats and draw legislative districts for local governments.
David said participation in the last few census counts has decreased, and there is a “real fear and distrust” within some minority communities in the area about the citizenship question, which the U.S. Supreme Court deemed inadequate in June and was predicted to suppress responses in Rhode Island significantly.
“We feel there are going to be a lot of barriers that will impede participation,” David said. “And, that’s why we want organizations who are trusted in these communities to have the information they need to get out and tell people why it matters.”
Rhode Island-based nonprofits, municipal governments and public agencies – libraries, schools, worship centers, etc. – are eligible to apply for the grants via the foundation’s website, and applications will be reviewed for approval.
Deadlines for the two application rounds are Monday, Nov. 25, and Friday, Jan. 31, 2020. There will also be an information session to take place Thursday, Nov. 7, from 5:30-7 p.m. at the Nonviolence Institute, 265 Oxford St., Providence.
James Bessette is a PBN staff writer. Email him at Research@PBN.com.
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