This year the United States will conduct its decennial census. In Boston there’s been a huge push to ensure a fair and complete count in the 2020 U.S. Census because it determines everything from representation in Congress, to federal funds for schools, affordable housing, infrastructure and health care programs.
In Jamaica Plain and across Boston nonprofits have been making an extra push to get marginalized groups to fill out the census and be counted.
Those efforts in the neighborhood got a boost this week the Massachusetts Census Equity Fund (MCEF). The MCEF announced its second round of targeted grants, totaling $350,000.00, to 34 grassroots nonprofit organizations to support efforts across Massachusetts to reach hard-to-count communities in the 2020 Census.
In Jamaica Plain the North American Indian Center of Boston (NAICOB) was one of the 34 grant recipients. Based on Huntington Avenue in Jamaica Plain, the NAICOB has provided cultural, social, educational, and professional related services to the New England Native American community for over 45 years. As the oldest urban Indian center in Massachusetts, its mission has been to empower the Native American community with the goal of improving the quality of life of Indigenous peoples.
NAICOB is governed by a seven-member, all Indian, Board of Directors who are elected by the membership and membership is free to all American Indians, Alaska Natives, First Nations (Indigenous People of Canada), and Native Hawaiians living in and around the greater Boston area.
“Over 70% of the American Indian and Alaska Native population in the United States live in urban areas,” said Jean-Luc Pierite, Tunica Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana and President, NAICOB Board of Directors. “Educational programming towards an accurate count of our community members in the 2020 Census is a priority for the North American Indian Center of Boston. At stake is our community’s political representation, as well as resources through federal funding which are vital to the self-determination of our peoples.”
Alexie Torres, Chair of the Massachusetts Census Equity Fund and Executive Director of Access Strategies said, “2020 is upon us and the time is now for philanthropy, grassroots organizations, state and civic leaders to join together to ensure the most accurate count of Massachusetts residents in the 2020 Census. The Massachusetts Census Equity Fund is proud to be supporting such an amazing group of groups across the state.”
Torres added that the impact of the results from the upcoming decennial census will be immense, bringing into focus the importance of collecting accurate data from historically under counted communities.
Census data determines political representation and the allocation of federal funds for social programs, including more than $16 billion per year for Massachusetts.
“In other words, the Commonwealth could stand to lose almost $2,400 in federal funding per year for each person not counted in the census,” she said.
In May 2019 Boston Mayor Martin Walsh joined local non-profit leaders and advocates to kickoff a year-long outreach campaign to ensure a fair and complete count in the 2020 U.S. Census.
The event drew leaders and advocates from across Greater Boston to show there’s a strong partnership with communities that surround Boston.
“To all the partners in the room we can’t do this without you,” said Walsh. “It’s so important to be counted. We need to make sure we are all counted because it determines our representation in Congress and I can’t underscore that enough. We need accurate census counts to protect our voices in Congress. Right now the investments that were made from the 2010 census were free lunches at public schools, funds for affordable housing, senior services, job training for our residents for the future. If we don’t do the count accurately we won’t get what is due to us in the Commonwealth.”