By Morgan Taylor, Reporter
OKMULGEE, Oklahoma – In March, households received official Census Bureau mail with detailed information on how to respond to the 2020 Census online, by phone or by mail.
Starting mid-April, the Census Bureau mailed paper questionnaires to the homes that had not yet responded online or by phone. According to Muscogee (Creek) Nation Secretary of Commerce, Terra Branson-Thomas the US Census Bureau refers to this phase of the Census as the “self-response time”.
“Due to the pandemic, the Census had decided to delay the follow up for non-responses until August, because the US Congress had allowed for more time under one of the COVID packages,” said Branson-Thomas. “They were supposed to go from August until October. I believe, but the Trump Administration had recently announced that the phase will end September 30.”
This means that all responsive counting must be reported by the end of September. Oklahoma as a state has a response rate of 62%. According to Branson-Thomas McIntosh Co. is one of the lowest response rates in the Muscogee (Creek) Nation with a total rate of 30%.
“We need every native to respond to their Census and hopefully count themselves as head-of-household on their Census response,” said Branson-Thomas. “For every head-of-household that we have that’s one more household that’s counted. That makes our voice more powerful. That number is reported to the US Congress and federal entities.”
Housing and Urban Development, also known as HUD, uses Census data to allocate funds that are received from HUD which is one reason completing the Census is important.
“If someone doesn’t complete their Census, we could be without the federal funds for that agency,” said Branson-Thomas. “One example, is that when we received funds for the CARES Act the Department of Treasury used information from HUD that was based off of the numbers from the 2010 Census.”
Federal funding is large part of the Annual Budget for the tribe.
“Anytime there is miscount in the Census it can have a negative implication on the funding that tribe receives,” said Branson-Thomas.
It is important for the tribe to count as many people as possible during the 2020 Census as head of household.
“One example, is that of our clinic in Okmulgee,” said Branson-Thomas. “We have actually outgrown that building many times. We applied for an IHS program that would help us update our facilities but our Census numbers were not competitive enough with other tribes to participate in that program in the past.”
As the Census enters its last phases, the tribe wants to remind the citizens to participate in the 2020 Census. This is the first year with an online option, which can be convenient for some.
Any citizen with questions regarding the 2020 Census can visit www.2020census.gov or call their hotline at 1-(844)330-2020.