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Catholic Charities of Louisville committed to ensuring complete U.S. Census count

By MARIA B. KOERNER, MSSW
Catholic Charities of Louisville

Saturday, March 7, 2020 — The 2020 Census is fast approaching. Households will begin receiving an invitation to respond online to the Census in mid-March. Data collected in the census will inform the distribution of more than $657 billion in federal funds to states and communities ever year for the next ten years.

Census data is used in a multitude of ways relevant to every Kentuckian. The data collected in 2020 will be used to determine the number of seats our state will hold in the U.S. House of Representatives, to draw legislative districts, to determine the location of healthcare services, and to direct funds to school districts. To name a few more that may be less obvious: it will be used to establish fair market rents, to direct funds for services for people living in poverty and for adults with limited English-language proficiency, to attract new businesses, to plan for public transportation services, and to assess the potential for spread of communicable diseases.

For all of these reasons and more, Catholic Charities of Louisville is committed to the effort of ensuring a complete count, and will help spread the word about the importance of the Census among all of its programs. Nonprofits have been called upon to help as they reach the populations that have been determined “hard to count” – such as low-income households, young children, seniors, and foreign-born residents. Catholic Charities programs serve each of these populations – from Sister Visitor Center which provides emergency assistance in West Louisville, to a Mama Matters support group for moms with children five and under, to the Long-Term Care Ombudsman program which advocates on behalf of residents in nursing homes. And Catholic Charities has a variety of programs that serve the foreign-born population including refugee resettlement, immigration legal services, interpretation and translation services, and case management to survivors of human trafficking.

Nonprofits and other community leaders are charged with finding trusted voices in the community to spread awareness about the importance of the Census, as well as calming fears. Responses to the Census are confidential and protected by federal law. Personal information is never shared with other government agencies; results are reported in statistical format only. Citizenship status will not be asked. The questionnaire will ask for the name, sex, race, and relationship of every person living in the household.

Kentucky’s two major cities, Louisville and Lexington, have seen a significant increase in diversity in the last ten years, according to a recent article in U.S. News & World Report. The Kentucky State Data Center found Louisville’s foreign-born population has been growing faster than its native-born population. For example, between 2000 and 2013, Louisville’s foreign-born population grew more than 107 percent, while the native-born population grew by less than nine percent. How do we know that? Census data, of course.

Catholic Charities of Louisville is a member of a statewide Nonprofit Census Coalition through the Kentucky Nonprofit Network as well as Louisville’s Municipal Complete Count Committee.

Our role is to support the 2020 Census at the local level by educating community residents about the Census and encouraging them to participate. Our programs reach a lot of populations that have been determined hard to count, including the immigrant and refugee community.

Maria Koerner is the Assistant Director of Catholic Charities’ Kentucky Office for Refugees, which serves as the state refugee coordinator’s office for Kentucky.

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