To the editor,
COLORADO - The outbreak of COVID-19 has challenged Colorado like no event in living memory. Although its impact on our health care system, schools, and social services has rightly received the most attention, we cannot take our eyes off another issue affecting them all: the 2020 census.
Since our founding over 230 years ago, Americans have stood up to be counted in times of war and times of peace, amidst dustbowls and depressions, and during moments of collective fear and hope for the nation. They stood up in difficult moments like our own, not only because the Constitution requires it, but because democracy depends on it. The Founders understood that you cannot represent the people if you do not know who and where they are.
In our time, the 2020 census is critical for Colorado because it helps determine the federal representation and resources we receive.
It has direct influence over our voice in Washington. Every decade, census data informs how many congressional districts each state receives. Some states gain seats while others lose them. After years of booming growth, Colorado stands an excellent chance to gain a seat and strengthen our influence in Washington – but only if we count everyone.
Similarly, census data also influences nearly every federal and state dollar our communities receive. That could mean more money – or less – for essential state and county programs including Medicaid, housing vouchers, free or reduced school meals, grants for community projects, and support for our farmers and transportation projects.
Given the stakes, all of us need to stand up and be counted. The good news is that, in 2020, it’s easier than ever to do so. This month, every household will receive an invitation by mail to respond to the census, as they have in the past. However, you will now also have the option to respond online, by mail, or by phone. These expanded options mean that, despite Colorado’s stay-at-home order, you can still easily participate. In fact, the extra time at home gives us the perfect opportunity to gather with our families and respond.
As you do that, it’s important that you have the right information. Like the pandemic, there has been a lot of misinformation about the census. Here are the facts: any personal information you provide to the census will remain strictly confidential and will not be shared nor used for any other purpose. Everyone can and should participate, including immigrants. There is no question on the census about citizenship status.
I recognize that, in this unsettled moment, completing the census may feel like a distant priority. But we should ask ourselves what will happen if we fail to count everyone in our state. It would mean less funding for our schools, hospitals, and social services, which need our support now more than ever. It would mean a weaker voice in Washington for our priorities and our values as Coloradans. Finally, it would mean that we would not receive the representation and resources we deserve. That outcome is entirely in our hands.
Like generations of before us, let’s step up even in this difficult time and count everyone in 2020.
U.S. Senator Michael Bennet (D-Colo.)