Everyone counts, and counting everyone matters.
As the 2020 census nears, that was the message Wednesday from a group of community partners working to ensure the Quad-City region has a more accurate count than a decade ago.
"Remember we count," Davenport Alderwoman Marion Meginnis, chair of Davenport's Complete Count Committee, said at a census kickoff for the media. Organizers chose Jefferson Elementary School as a backdrop since children often are under-represented in census counts.
"Unfortunately, 10 years ago people living in some of our Quad-City neighborhoods were grossly under-counted," she said. "That meant dollars were lost for free and reduced lunches, services for seniors, affordable housing in areas where people need those dollars the most."
While Iowa is traditionally No. 1 in its reporting rate for the census, Meginnis said some return rates in Davenport census tracts were as low as 54%. As a county, Scott County's return rate was 81.5%.
The Complete Count Committee, a combined effort of partners in Davenport, Bettendorf and Scott County, used the kickoff to shed light on the behind-the-scenes preparations and the initiatives planned that are all aimed at getting residents to complete the census. The committee consists of representatives from the cities, local organizations, media, schools, churches and nonprofits working with assistance from Bi-State Regional Commission.
Early activities have included promoting the We Count campaign through advertisements, billboards, street banners, and social media channels. The group has been educating the public at community events and will march in the St. Patrick Society's Grand Parade on Saturday, March 14. In addition, it has enlisted libraries, businesses and community advocates to help provide direct assistance to residents.
Meginnis said low participation is a greater concern among populations such as immigrants, minorities, low income, senior citizens, college students and other transient residents.
Jazmin Newton, president of LULAC Council 10, Davenport, said LULAC is leading an education campaign to make sure Latinos understand the importance of accurate counts. It is estimated that more than 400,000 children of Latinos nationwide were not counted in the previous census. "We cannot afford to let that happen again," she said.
"Each year, billions of dollars in federal funding are granted to hospitals, fire departments, schools, roads and resource to our community based on the census data," said Newton, also the state deputy director for LULAC.
She said studies show "three-fourths of Latinos worry that the information collected by the census will be used against them. This is despite the fact that the question about citizenship was struck down."
T.J. Schneckloth of the Davenport Community School District said the district has identified its neighborhoods and populations that were under-reported and is working to assist these families through its schools. He said accurate counts "are critical and vital as we move forward."
Speaking on behalf of the Diocese of Davenport, Loxi Hopkins said Bishop Thomas Zinkula and the diocese also are working to educate parishioners and those in its ministries. "It doesn't matter whether you are documented, undocumented, poor, rich, renter or homeowner, everyone has a right to be counted," she said.
Bi-State Executive Director Denise Bulat said many of the same programs and efforts are in the works on the Illinois side of the river. She credited grant funding from organizations such as the Doris and Victor Day Foundation for assisting in setting up census kiosks and other campaign efforts. "A kiosk is a computer so people can answer questions the census online and a person that can answer some questions."
To date, 18 locations have offered to provide a kiosk, but organizers are seeking more organizations to volunteer as a kiosk.
For more information on the Quad-City campaign, visit wecountqc.org. Organizations can sign up there to be a kiosk as well as advertise any census events.