As Census deadline looms, group working to make sure everyone is counted

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Filling out your census brings in money to help your community, but this year there’s a shorter time span to do it. The U.S. Census Bureau is ending all counting efforts for the 2020 census on September 30th. That’s putting pressure on a local group that’s primary goal is to make sure immigrants, refugees, and members of the Muslim communities are counted.

In February, KELOLAND News introduced you to the Peoples’ Count SD, Nuestra Gente Cuenta SD Coalition. The goal is to make sure South Dakota’s census count is representative of the diverse communities who live here.

“South Dakota is definitely a melting pot. It’s starting to be. I see so many different people, I mean, we’re everywhere. We’re bankers, we’re insurance agents, we’re stay at home moms,” Yesenia Gonzalez, member of South Dakota Voices for Peace, said in February.

Things were looking good for the group’s effort.

“We were just launching and getting really excited an then the pandemic hit,” Taneeza Islam, executive director, said.

People’s Count SD shifted its focus to an online platform, but Taneeza Islam says the last few months have limited the group’s ability to reach as many people as it was initially planning.

“It’s very critical for each person to be counted,” Islam said.

Each person who fills out a census brings in $1,600 in federal money every year for 10 years. All that money does a number of things to better communities, like help schools and fix potholes. The Census Bureau has sent out door knockers to try to get people who haven’t filled it out yet. However, Islam says ending that at the end of the month is another huge setback.

“National advocacy organizations are making asks to Congress members and we’ll be releasing an action alert soon to encourage Congress to extend that because of the impact of COVID and not being able to get everyone counted,” Islam said.

It’s safe to say this spring and summer weren’t what this group was planning for, but Islam says members remain focused to make sure everyone is counted.

“We’ll continue to do that work even though we’ve had a lot of roadblocks,” Islam said.

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