By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
Federal law (U.S. Constitution Article I Section II) states that a census must be taken in the United States every ten years for the purpose of proper apportionment of the U.S. House of Representatives. The next census will take place next year, and the 2020 Census Cherokee Complete Count Committee is committing itself to an educational outreach strategy to make sure that everyone residing on tribal lands of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) is counted.
“Being on this Committee, you start seeing where all of the funding is going and how important it is,” said Tammy Jackson, 2020 Census Cherokee Complete Count Committee chairperson. “A lot of people might think that if we lose federal funds that the Tribe will just pick that up. Well, that’s a tremendous strain on our Tribe if they have to pick up these programs.”
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, “…the federal government distributes more than $675 billion to states and communities (including tribal) based on Census Bureau data.”
According to information from the EBCI Treasury Division, the Tribe received federal funding in FY 2019 totaling $84,739,097 which accounts for 9.77 percent of the tribal budget. Some programs such as WIC Administration and WIC Breastfeeding Peer Counseling, Head Start and Early Head Start, and the WIA Work Experience Program are funded 100 percent from federal funding.
“Our role here is promotion and education,” said Jackson who related the Committee will be doing a lot of community outreach at various events and places in the months leading up to the 2020 Census.
The census will officially start on April 1, 2020, but most households (95 percent according to the U.S. Census Bureau) will begin receiving mailings in March 2020 which will include a code that they can use to fill out the census online – thereby eliminating the need and cost for a person to come to the home to fill out the census information. Jackson said self-response also includes a phone and a paper mail option. “If they don’t want someone knocking on their door, there are three easy ways to do this.”
According to the Census Bureau, households will receive an invitation to participate online as well as paper questionnaires from March 12-20 and a reminder letter from March 16-24. A reminder postcard will be sent out from March 26 – April 2, and a reminder letter and paper questionnaire will be sent April 8-16. A final reminder postcard will be sent April 20-27 before a personal visit by a Census worker.
This self-response is being encouraged by the Committee as it does help to reduce manpower and, therefore, costs. According to information from the Committee, the EBCI had a self-response rate in the 2010 Census of around 75 percent – a rate the Committee hopes to raise to about 90 percent this time around.
Kelsey Jackson, Committee member, commented, “Our biggest thing is education…we’ve already talked about education in the school system and doing different things especially with the younger kids.”
The Committee has submitted legislation that will be discussed in the upcoming Tribal Council meeting on Thursday, Sept. 10. They are seeking funding in the amount of $40,000 to help implement their various educational strategies. The legislation states, “The Office of the Principal Chief has established the Cherokee Complete Count Committee as part of the U.S. Census Bureau’s Community Partnership and Engagement Program to support the 2020 Census goal to count everyone once, only once, and in the right place.”
Kimberly Smith, an EBCI tribal member working with the 2020 Census as well as with the Committee, said, “The goal from the census’ perspective is to educate, encourage, and engage and really getting that message out from a local trust standpoint, especially in our community. One of the things you hear is ‘sure, you can trust the government, ask an Indian’. We’re generationally-linked to this concept of not trusting the government, not trusting what anyone from the government says. So, if I come in with a federal badge on, that conversation is already shut down.”
She says that the Committee will help bridge that gap with people already trusted by the community. “We’re really going to be able to encourage our community to actually complete the census, know its impact, and that way our community is stronger because knowledge is power. If they realize that they have the opportunity to have an impact, especially a 10-year impact, they might be more encouraged to do something.”
Smith spoke of the importance of participation. “Some studies, such as the George Washing University study, have found that for the State of North Carolina that for every person we don’t capture in the census, it equates to just a little over $900 a year for 10 years. So, if we miss a household with four people that’s $40,000 over a decade. So, even if they’ve just allotted $40,000, if we capture just one additional four-person household, that impact has made up the investment.”
The Committee will soon begin scheduling events and trips to various community happenings to spread their message, and they will soon launch a social media campaign. Smith noted that enumeration of the 2020 Census will wrap-up in July 2020 with the final reports due by Dec. 31, 2020.
For more information on the 2020 Census, visit www.census.gov. To contact the Cherokee Complete Count Committee, email Tammy Jackson firstname.lastname@example.org or Kimberly Smith Kimberly.email@example.com.