Thanks to the generosity of donors, the Rhode Island Census 2020 Fund is offering local organizations grants of up to $25,000 to conduct outreach and education that will encourage participation in the 2020 Census. Applicants should plan to focus specific attention on increasing Census response rates in communities that have been historically undercounted and are vulnerable to an undercount in 2020.
The Rhode Island Census 2020 Fund supports awareness-building, outreach and engagement activities so that every Rhode Islander will be aware of the Census, will understand the importance of being counted, and will feel safe, invested and easily able to participate in the 2020 count.
A total of $425,000 is available to local nonprofits, municipal governments, libraries, schools, houses of worship, community-based groups.
Donors to the fund include local philanthropist Bhikhaji Maneckji, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Rhode Island, Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island, the Nellie Mae Foundation, the Service Employees International Union 1199 New England, the Rhode Island Foundation and United Way of Rhode Island. The Rhode Island Foundation will administer the initiative working in partnership with the Rhode Island Complete Count Committee, created in late 2018 by executive order of Gov. Gina Raimondo.
“These Census outreach grants are a way to build a grassroots effort to help us achieve our goal of getting every Rhode Islander counted,” said co-chair of the Complete Count Committee and Director of Health Nicole Alexander-Scott. “One of the most important tasks of the Complete Count Committee is to develop an outreach program and motivate community members to respond,” added fellow co-chair James Diossa, mayor of Central Falls. Scott added, “A major focus will be to reach those that are considered ‘hard to count’ – non-fluent-English speakers, homeless individuals, young adults and many others."
“Rhode Island cannot afford an undercount in the 2020 Census. This is a once-in-a-decade opportunity to learn more about the communities we serve, ensure fair representation and much-needed federal funding allocations to our state, and to encourage civic participation,” said Jessica David, executive vice president of Strategy and Community Investments at the Rhode Island Foundation. “We’re grateful to the funding partners who have stepped up to assist with this effort and to the many local groups who will do the on-the-ground organizing around Census 2020.”
Rhode Island-based nonprofit organizations, municipal governments, public agencies like libraries or schools, houses of worship and community-based groups are eligible to apply for Census 2020 Outreach Grants of between $1,000 and $25,000. The grants are intended to support one-time or periodic activities to raise awareness about the Census. Grants must focus on a specific demographic community or geographic area in Rhode Island at risk of undercounting.
The program will be administered by the Rhode Island Foundation, with applications reviewed by a committee of community members. There will be two rounds of funding. Application deadlines are Mon., Nov. 25, 2019, and Fri., Jan. 31, 2020. More information regarding the program and an online application link is available at rifoundation.org/censusgrants.
"We must organize to engage participation from the Hard to Count Communities which are in most cases also the most historically disenfranchised communities,” said Chanda Womack, executive director of the Alliance of Rhode Island Southeast Asians for Education, which has been organizing in the Southeast Asian community around the 2020 Census for the past year. “An accurate count results in equitable allocation of federal funds and political representation. Rhode Island is in position to receive nearly $4 billion in federal funding to support, but not limited to, affordable housing, healthcare, schooling and higher education. I urge all who work closely with Hard to Count Communities to apply for the available grants to raise awareness and ensure all Rhode Islanders are counted as I count, you count, we all count!”
“It is imperative for all of us who live in Rhode Island to be counted in the 2020 Census, regardless of where we live or where we came from,” noted Heiny Maldonado, executive director of Fuerza Laboral, a worker’s rights center in Central Falls, where outreach around the importance of the 2020 Census is ongoing. “We must all make sure to participate in the Census. It is essential that everyone is counted accurately to ensure the distribution of federal resources for communities in financing schools, roads and other public projects and, in addition, the Census defines the number of seats in Congress. If you live in Rhode Island you must be counted. We encourage everyone who can apply for these grants to do so, and with that to make sure we can multiply our efforts and work together on educating our communities.”
An information session for interested applicants for Census 2020 Outreach Grants is scheduled for Thurs., Nov. 7, 2019, from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Nonviolence Institute, 265 Oxford St., Providence. Registration information is available at rifoundation.org/censusgrants.
A fair and accurate census is one of the most important activities the federal government conducts. The Census is conducted once every 10 years. Census data are used annually to allocate $3.8 billion for Rhode Island in federal programs and resources, but those numbers are set only once a decade. State leaders, businesses and other decision-makers use Census data to make critical investment and economic decisions, track civil rights disparities and enforcement priorities, and make informed decisions about the needs of residents. And, Census data are used to reapportion seats in the House of Representatives and to draw legislative districts for state and local governments, ensuring fair political representation.