Local organizations can apply for $25,000 grants to encourage residents to participate in the Census

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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, according to The Rhode Island Foundation.

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. 

According to Chris Barnett, Senior Communications & Marketing Officer for Rhode Island Foundation, “The grants target hard-to-count Census tracts like 402, 410 and 412 in NewportCensus tract 410 includes America’s Cup Avenue/Thames Street/Spring Street/Narragansett Avenue”. 

Barnett continues, “In 2010, only 71.5% of the tract’s households mailed back their Census questionnaire, which made it one of the hardest to count in the country. Here’s a map you can dive into for more details. The goal is to protect the $3.8 billion a year that Rhode Island receives in federal funding for education, health care, housing and transportation based on Census data”.

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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. 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.  

“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

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.