Seven hundred and fifty million dollars in federal funding over the next 10 years. That's how much Arkansas stands to lose if we miss just 1 percent of our residents in the 2020 U.S. Census.
An accurate census count will ensure Arkansas continues to receive resources to increase job opportunities, build roads, assist schools and repair communities' infrastructure. Without correct data, we risk losing financial support for the health-care centers, programs and supplies our residents need. What we learn next year will have an indelible impact on our state's future.
Can Arkansas afford to leave money on the table? We don't think so.
That's why we all need to take action to ensure our nation's census is representative so our children, families and communities have access to adequate funding. To help, Arkansas Impact Philanthropy, Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, Arkansas Public Policy Panel, and Arkansas United recently launched Arkansas Counts, an initiative that targets hard-to-count populations--in particular, people of color, children under 5, and low-income, rural and immigrant communities--to make sure every Arkansan is included.
We know we'll face challenges as we work to reach our goal. For example, in 2020, the census will be more difficult for us because, for the first time ever, the survey will be completed online. As a largely rural state, Arkansas has limited transportation and communication services. Currently, our state ranks 48th in the U.S. for Internet coverage, and approximately 30 percent of our residents do not have Internet access or can only access dial-up Internet. This means many Arkansans will not be able to take the census online. Therefore, we must show up in their communities to help them get counted.
But that's not the only issue that may affect Arkansas in the coming census. There are also language barriers to consider. From 2000 to 2010, our state ranked fourth in the nation for growth in our immigrant population. English is a second language for many of these residents. While census materials will be available in many languages, it can be difficult for members of our vibrant and growing immigrant population to access the right information to find out how and why they should participate. How can we help? As a state, we must focus on recruiting people to engage these individuals, especially those who are fluent in the languages spoken in these areas.
Arkansas Counts is prepared to overcome these challenges by bringing Arkansans together to identify and implement innovative solutions. Our coalition will figure out how to get the word out and encourage more people to help count individuals for the census in their communities. And, just as importantly, we will help support grass-roots action across our state to ensure every Arkansan is represented.
To build a thriving and prosperous Arkansas, we believe it is crucial to have an accurate 2020 U.S. Census. As we look ahead to next year, we hope our fellow residents will join us in proving Arkansas Counts by being a part of the journey at arkansasimpact.org/arkansas-counts.
Sarah Kinser is a founding member of Arkansas Impact Philanthropy and chief program officer for Arkansas Community Foundation. Kara Wilkins is the Arkansas Counts coordinator for Arkansas Impact Philanthropy.
Editorial on 05/02/2019