Taking Part in the Census Can Be a Life or Death Matter When Crisis Hits. Step Up and Be Counted | Opinion

The 5th Congressional District of Pennsylvania spans Delaware County and includes portions of Philadelphia and Montgomery Counties. Our region is Pennsylvania's COVID-19 hotspot, with nearly 50 percent of the Commonwealth's confirmed cases. We are also home to our nation's poorest and hungriest major city and suburban region—a reality that has been exposed and exacerbated by this pandemic.

As this pandemic has shuttered businesses and closed schools, it has become increasingly clear that our most marginalized communities are bearing the brunt of the virus. When you live paycheck to paycheck, one missed shift, or even an hour's worth of work, forces families to make impossible decisions between putting food on the table or keeping a roof overhead.

COVID-19 has only widened the social and economic gaps that hold far too many families and children back.

Children are expected to learn from their kitchen tables without necessary technology or basic internet access, while parents and caregivers juggle demands of work and homeschooling. Essential workers, whether on the frontlines in hospitals or earning minimum wage stocking shelves at our supermarkets, are expected to work without access to guaranteed childcare or paid sick leave. People without health insurance cannot get tested and are afraid to seek care.

Systemic and racial inequities are exacerbated by a pandemic that requires economic, food, and housing security as the first line of defense. Ensuring a complete Census is the rear guard for that line of defense for the most vulnerable members of our community.

Before this virus's brutal and fatal upending of our daily lives, we were gearing up for the 2020 Census—a critical, constitutional, complete count of every person living in the United States. The data collected by the Census helps determine how billions of dollars in federal funding is allocated to states and communities each year.

Federal funding for Unemployment Insurance relies on a complete and accurate Census.

Federal funding for the Medical Assistance Program, health clinics, hospitals, and the Children's Health Insurance Program, relies on a complete and accurate Census.

Federal funding for SNAP, the National School Lunch Program, Meals on Wheels, and WIC relies on a complete and accurate Census.

Federal funding for public education, Head Start, and special education programs relies on a complete and accurate Census.

Federal funding for Small Business Development Centers relies on a complete and accurate Census.

In Pennsylvania alone, we lose over $2,000 a year in federal funds for our community for every person we fail to count in the Census, precious dollars that could be invested in our children, hospitals, infrastructure, and roads.

We all feel a sense of urgency to help our community during this extraordinary time, and one of the easiest things that each of us can do to help, right now, is to participate in the 2020 Census. Doing the right thing has never been easier, safer, or more critical.

You can respond online at 2020census.gov. You can respond by phone at 844-330-2020. You can respond by mail by returning your Census form to the U.S. Census Bureau, National Processing Center, 100 Logistics Avenue, Jeffersonville, IN 4714.

So my question to you is: can you spare 5 minutes to help your community?

Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon represents Pennsylvania's 5th congressional district. She is Vice Chair of the House Judiciary Committee and a Member of the House Rules Committee.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own.

Taking Part in the Census Can Be a Life or Death Matter When Crisis Hits. Step Up and Be Counted | Opinion | Opinion