COLUMBUS, Ohio — Amid a global pandemic, the once-a-decade census of Americans goes on, and groups want to ensure young children are counted this year.
Millions of federal dollars are at risk if every child isn't counted, and nearly 2 million kids age 5 and younger were missed in the 2010 census. Deborah Stein, network director with Partnership for America's Children, noted census figures determine funding for child care, medical care, housing and other programs that give children their best start in life.
"If you want to make sure there's more funding for your schools and for all the services your child needs, make sure you count everybody from birth on in your household, because the consequences of missing a child last a decade, and that's most of their childhood," Stein said.
The census takes about 10 minutes to fill out and can be done by phone or online at 2020census.gov. So far, 22% of Ohio households have self-responded to the census.
Ohio Development Services Agency director Lydia Mihalik said the census count also determines Ohio's representation in Congress.
"Actually this year, with this particular census, Ohio is projected to lose at least one seat in Congress," Mihalik said. "And if we think about that, that's one less Ohio voice sharing Ohio values in national decision-making."
Children younger than 5 are by far the largest of any age group missed in the census, and young black and Hispanic children are missed at more than twice the rate of young white children.
Sarah Brannon, managing attorney with the ACLU Voting Rights Project, said some people don't know that all kids should be counted. And others might question the security of census data.
"We have to be candid that there's some distrust of the current administration and the fact that the current administration has not followed all of the norms in lots of different circumstances," Brannon said. "And so that leads some populations to be particularly distrustful of the process."
Brannon noted the census has some of the strongest privacy protections in federal law, and census workers face stiff penalties for failure to maintain the confidentiality of census data.