The 2020 Census in Puerto Rico
Resident Commissioner: It Helps Determine How Congress Allocates Funding That Is so Important for Island’s Economic Development
By Rep. Jenniffer González-Colón
These are very difficult times in Puerto Rico and across the rest of the Nation. The threat of the coronavirus has brought uncertainty to our lives, forcing us to adopt extreme measures to protect our health and that of our loved ones. This has changed everyday practices, including our social interactions and communications, while simultaneously posing barriers for our commercial and economic activities.
However, during these challenging times, we have a unique opportunity to define Puerto Rico’s future. Now that we must remain in our homes, we should take advantage of this situation to respond to the 2020 Census.
Our federal Constitution requires that we count every resident of the United States every ten years. Puerto Rico has been part of this decennial census since 1910.
The information gathered through the Census not only helps us determine the population of each state and territory, but it is also vital to understand the needs of our citizens and thus inform the public policy decisions we have to pursue. Similarly, and of critical importance to Puerto Rico, the Census helps determine how we in Congress allocate billions of dollars in federal funding each year. This includes, among other programs, funds for our low-income schools and special education students; for affordable housing; for the Head Start program; for our college students’ Pell Grants; and for the Community Development Block Grant program, which is so important for our municipalities and our Island’s economic development.
It is incumbent upon each and every one of us to respond to the 2020 Census in order to ensure our citizens do not lose access to these and other federal programs, particularly those that help the most vulnerable among us.
According to the Census Bureau’s own data, in 2010 Puerto Rico had the lowest self-response rate when compared to the states and Washington, D.C. Ten years ago, only 53.8% of households on the Island responded to the Census on their own, well below the national average of 66.5%.
In order to increase the self-response rate in Puerto Rico, the Census Bureau needs to expand its advertising campaign and outreach efforts. Still, there should be no reason to prevent us from responding to the Census, since for the first-time history we can complete the questionnaire online, by phone, or by mail.
Even if you have not received the invitation containing the I.D. to participate in the 2020 Census, you can still access and complete it online by visiting www.my2020census.gov.
You can also respond by phone by calling 844-418-2020 (English) or 844-426-2020 (Spanish).
Puerto Rico has faced many challenges during the past decade. The fiscal and economic crisis, the impact of hurricanes and earthquakes, and now the threat of the coronavirus are just some examples. In order to continue our recovery process and ensure we have access to the necessary tools to meet the needs of our people, it is critical that we respond to the 2020 Census.