August 18, 2020
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Joe Dorman, CEO – Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy
Telephone: (405) 833-1117
“Census Community Challenge” Seeks to Boost Responses
OICA Offering Cash Award to School in Most-improved Community
OKLAHOMA CITY – Across the United States, more than 63 percent of households have completed their U.S. Census forms. In Oklahoma, however, it is a different story altogether.
Barely 58 percent of Oklahoma households have completed their Census forms, putting at risk hundreds of millions of federal tax dollars Oklahomans will have paid to Washington, but might not get back in critical population-based services. Among the services that will lose essential funding are those targeted to improve the lives of Oklahoma’s children.
That is why the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy (OICA) is working hard to try to boost the state’s response to the 2020 Census with its Census Community Challenge.
“This is our one crack at setting our population for a decade,” said Joe Dorman, CEO of OICA. “If we fail to count every Oklahoma resident, we will be throwing away almost three-quarters-of-a-billion dollars – money we as Oklahomans worked hard to earn.”
The amount comes from the fact that for every person not counted, the state loses approximately $1,700 each year. If the Census misses even one-out-of-every hundred Oklahomans, that will add up to $72 million per year – a whopping $720 million over the 10 years between Census counts.
2020 is the first year for Americans to fill out their Census response rates through Internet response or over the phone with the U.S. Census Bureau, along with the traditional way of returning information via the postal system. Currently, most have responded through the Census Bureau website.
“This is a tremendous opportunity to ensure you and your family are counted by simply going to https://2020census.gov/ and submitting the information for all living in your household,” said Dorman. “We want to ensure every Oklahoman is counted, and counted only once, so we do not lose vital resources, such as road funding and support for children’s health insurance.”
To help provide an element of competition, OICA is sponsoring the “Census Community Challenge” among the state’s schools. “Every school or community has a traditional rival,” Dorman explained. “Our goal is to put that rivalry to good use to see which school and which community can do a better job with its Census response.”
OICA will provide a $250 cash prize and a trophy to the school in the community with the most improved count from the numbers recorded on May 16 to the close of the Census on Sept. 30. That closure date is a month earlier than planned due to COVID-19 changes, which makes it even more important for communities to do all they can as quickly as they can to boost their numbers.
Some Oklahoma communities are returning Census forms even better than the national average; as of Aug. 17, 51 Oklahoma communities have a higher response rate than the national rate. They are led by Piedmont, with 78.4 percent of households responding. Unfortunately, more than 500 cities are below the national average, with some just showing a single-digit response rate. The bottom of the list is the town of Carlton Landing, with a response rate of 4.5 percent.
“It’s not where you start that matters, it where you end,” Dorman said. “The Community Census Challenge is about how much a community improves, and we see some success stories.”
Right now, the town of Wann has shown the most improvement, going from 3.4 percent on May 17 to 49.2 percent on Aug. 17 – jumping 45.8 percentage points.
“Our hope with the Census Community Challenge is for communities and schools to use their traditional rivalries to improve Census response rates compared to what they do on the scoreboard under the Friday night lights of football, softball, and other sports,” Dorman said. “At the end of the Census – the community which increases their response the most – lighting up the Census scoreboard – will earn a cash award and bragging rights for their school and their hometown.”
You can follow community progress at https://2020census.gov/en/response-rates.html by clicking the “Rankings Here” link above the map. Free Oklahoma specific marketing materials and information are at the “OK Let’s Count” Census Website at https://okletscount.org/.
“We have reached out to every school district and site in the state in hopes of getting them to participate in encouraging Census response with the families of their students,” Dorman concluded. “They can let us know they are ‘in’ at firstname.lastname@example.org and download lesson plans to assist the challenge at https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/sis.html and during this time of virtual learning, this is the perfect time to encourage this message to respond using the Census website.”