Redmond partners with community groups for Census outreach work

Census data is used to determine legislative and congressional representatives as well as how much federal funding a community receives.

Jan. 1 marked not just the beginning of a new year, but also the beginning of a new decade.

And with a new decade comes a new head count of the country. The 2020 Census is coming this spring and the city of Redmond is working with local community groups to educate residents in hopes of getting the most accurate count.

The city is part of Eastside Census 2020. According to its website,, Eastside Census is a partnership with the cities of Sammamish, Bellevue, Kirkland and Issaquah as well as local nonprofits, school districts, local philanthropy and community and faith-based groups.

“We aim to raise awareness about the Census and its importance,” the website states. “Materials and events are being provided to address community questions and concerns in hopes that everyone in our community can make an informed decision about their participation in the Census.”

According to the website, these local Census outreach efforts are funded by the state, King County, the cities of Bellevue, Redmond, and Kirkland, the Seattle Foundation and other private foundations.

Alaric Bien, a senior planner for the city of Redmond, said Redmond contributed $20,000.

In addition, Bien said the city received grants through the Regional Census Fund and Washington State Office of Financial Management. These funds went to local community groups to do Census outreach work in their respective communities.

Educating communities

The Muslim Community Resource Center, an organization in Redmond that works with refugees and other displaced individuals, received $8,000 in grants to do this work.

“We have been able to educate these individuals on the scope of the Census and provide informational sessions to them to alleviate their concerns in how the Census information will be used,” founder and CEO Nickhath Sheriff said. “So far we have touched over 300 people with information about the Census across multiple languages.”

Centro Cultural Mexicano (CCM), also in Redmond, received $10,130 to do this work. In an email to the Reporter, executive director Carlos Jimenez and director Angie Yusuf wrote that they are involved because the information that is gathered affects redistricting and representation in government.

“We feel it is important for our community to have a voice and this is one way to do that,” they wrote. “The Census also has an impact on allocation of federal funding for programs related to education, medical needs, and other social programs.”

Jimenez and Yusuf wrote that it is important, regardless of immigration status, to participate in the Census.

“By federal law, the Census Bureau is strictly prohibited from sharing Census information with any other agency in government, including law enforcement and immigration,” they wrote.

To Jimenez and Yusuf, it is important for local organizations to be involved because they are in direct contact with hard to count (HTC) communities.

“Centro Cultural Mexicano is organizing a series of cultural events that bring our community together while giving us the opportunity to share the importance of participating in the Census through one-on-one conversations and an information kiosk,” they wrote.

CCM’s next event with Census information is a free Valentine’s Day Serenta with live music from 6-8 p.m. Feb. 14 at 7945 Gilman St. in Redmond.

Hard-to-count tracts

Data collected the Census is used to help inform the government when it comes to things such as how many legislative and congressional representatives there should be for any given area as well as how much federal funding a community can receive for anything from seniors to transportation.

About $1 trillion in federal funding is distributed to communities nationwide based on Census data, according to the Tax Policy Center. Washington received $2,300 in federal funds each year, per person, totaling $23,000 per person for the 10-year period since the last Census. If someone was not counted, that was $23,000 per person that the state lost, said Alaric Bien, senior planner for the city of Redmond.

For the 2010 Census, he said there were two hard-to-count (HTC) tracts in Redmond: the east side of the Education Hill and Avondale corridor and from the Avondale corridor to Sammamish.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, HTC populations “are those for whom a real or perceived barrier exists [between] full and representative inclusion in the data collection process.” Examples include people experiencing homelessness, historically marginalized groups and nomadic peoples. According to the bureau, there are four main reasons why people may be HTC. Populations may be hard to locate, hard to contact (difficult to physically access), hard to persuade (reluctant to participate) and hard to interview (such as a language barrier, low literacy or some form of disability).

Bien said other groups that may be difficult to count include low-income populations, people who move a lot like renters, cultural and linguistic minorities, immigrants and refugees, members of the LBGTQ+ community, undocumented immigrants and children younger than 5.

Protected information

To ensure the most accurate count, the city has been doing outreach since last year.

At Redmond Lights, Bien said the city had a table set up where staff answered people’s questions about the Census.

He said there is some confusion within immigrant and refugee communities. People had not realized that even if they are in the United States on a green card, visa or without documentation, they are still included in the Census count, Bien said, adding that there is also fear within communities about where the information will go.

Information gathered from the Census is not shared with other government entities such as the IRS, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or U.S. Customs and Border Protection, he said, adding that Census results are confidential for 72 years. In addition, Census workers are also sworn to confidentiality and can face up to $250,000 in fines and/or five years in prison if they violate that confidentiality.

Data in multiple languages

Information collected for the Census will be for April 1, and includes how many people are living at a location and whether the home is owned or rented, as well as the relationship of each person in the household, their name, sex, age, race and whether they are of Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin.

Bien said residents should watch out for scams with people asking for Social Security numbers, money or donations, anything on behalf of a political party, or bank or credit card account numbers.

This year, Bien said, 80 percent of responses will be reported online. Each household will receive a 12-digit PIN that is attached to its address to be used as a login online. The Census takes about 10 minutes online, Bien said, adding that in addition to English, the Census website offers assistance in 12 languages. There are also 59 non-English language glossaries available on the website.

For those who do not want to take the Census survey online, they can also do it by mail, over the phone or in person.

“It’s safe, it’s easy and it’s important,” Bien said about the Census.

Bien said the city uses Census data to help meet the community’s needs in various areas including long-range planning, economic development and determining the top five spoken languages in Redmond. The latter can help the city when it comes to translating emergency information.

Bien said in King County, Census data was used to help the county with targeted outreach work to let low-income seniors know about the state’s property tax exemption program.

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