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In Conversation with Mayor Mike Duggan on the 2020 Census and Detroit’s Tomorrow

In a panel discussion at the 2019 Detroit Regional Conference, Mayor Mike Duggan joined Latin Americans for Social and Economic Development’s Jane C. Garcia, ACCESS’ Hassan Jaber, and Detroit the 2020 Census Campaign’s Victoria Kovari for a conversation about how next year’s Census will impact the city’s future. The discussion was moderated by Sandy Baruah, president and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber, who also served as senior advisor to the Secretary of Commerce for the 2010 U.S. Census.

With the 2020 Census right around the corner, it’s important to get a head start on an inclusive count. The Census will determine how much representation the region will have in Lansing and Washington D.C., and in turn the amount of funding received for health care, housing, roads, and more.

“In 2010, Detroit’s Census response rate was the lowest for any major urban core city…we’re going to do everything we can to get people counted,” Duggan said. The Census impacts Detroiters in their everyday lives, so overcoming challenges to a proper count is key.

“40 percent of the state budget comes from federal money that will be impacted by Census figures,” Jaber said.

Some challenges that effect the Census count include fear from residents, language barriers, and apprehension about confidentiality. For the first time, field crews will use iPads door-to-door, Duggan said, making the process more streamline. Although there are some concerns about privacy with a digitized census, the accessibility and reach are promising.

The whole field operation will be driven by data and technology, Kovari said.

“We’re planning a robust strategy…we’re going to set up questionnaire assistance centers across the city to help people log-in and troubleshoot and Census captains for every single census track,” she said.

The plan also includes a thorough communications model, outreach meetings, programs at parent teacher conferences, presentations before block clubs, and more. Along with technology, involving the local community is vital.

“As community agencies, we’re very supportive,” Garcia said. Businesses, corporations, and religious centers must also assist to alleviate some of the worry from residents. She emphasized the need to provide bilingual materials.

The 2020 Census campaign will begin in April 2019. The Census will officially go live mid-March of next year and run through mid-July. Starting early, communicating with community members and organizations, and stressing the importance of the Census will provide long-term benefits.

Kovari’s team will be “pounding the pavement,” deploying rapid response to areas where response rates fall below target. She said that this Census will be 10 questions-long and only take about 10 minutes.

“It’s 10 questions, 10 minutes, for the next 10 years,” Duggan said. “This is going to be it. You need to be talking to your friends, your employees, your neighbors.”