By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
OKLAHOMA CITY – With the approaching end of the US Census just two weeks away, the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy (OICA) and the state Department of Commerce’s “OK, Let’s Count!” initiative are partnering to boost Census response among state and nonprofit employees.
Joining them in the effort are the Oklahoma Press Association, Oklahoma Municipal League, Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits, and other members of the “OK, Let’s Count!” coalition.
Together, the organizations will sponsor the nonprofits’ “Census Sprint to the Finish” event scheduled for Friday, September 18, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the south parking lot of the Oklahoma State Capitol.
Officials from the U.S. Census Bureau and Oklahoma state officials will be in attendance, along with “Rumble,” mascot of the Oklahoma City Thunder NBA team.
Less than 60 percent of Oklahoma households have completed their Census forms.
According to the press release, a low response puts at risk hundreds of millions of federal tax dollars Oklahomans will have paid to Washington. An inadequate count will send Oklahomans’ tax dollars to more populous states, including Texas.
“The purpose of the event to encourage every state employee and nonprofit employee, volunteer, or service recipient to respond to the U.S. Census,” said Joe Dorman, OICA Chief Executive Officer. “It is critical we do this now as the Census Bureau has been directed to stop counting on Sept. 30. Our time is simply running out.”
Services that will improve the lives of Oklahoma’s children are among those that will lose essential funding with an incomplete Census count, according to Dorman.
“The event at the Capitol will be a great place to respond, consistent with social distancing and COVID-19 precautions,” he added. “People will be able to drive up and respond on a sanitized computer pad and have their Census data count immediately.”
There will be hot dogs and drinks available, and a raffle for one lucky winner who responds to the Census at the Capitol on that day.
There is no cost except to commit to promoting the Census and encouraging others to respond to the Census before Sept. 30.
To sign up for the Friday event, organizations and agencies can click here.
Nonprofit organizations and state agencies – like the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority (OETA), which registered for the event, are encouraged to sign up – reflecting
their commitments to a full count for Oklahoma in the Census.
As part of its commitment, OETA TV has aired thousands of dollars’ worth of promotions in support of Census response.
“This is our one crack at setting our population for a decade,” Dorman said. “If we fail to count every Oklahoman, we will throw away almost three-quarters-of-a-billion dollars – money we as Oklahomans worked hard to earn.”
The amount comes from the fact that for every person not counted, the state loses approximately $1,700 each year.
If the Census misses one-out-of-every hundred Oklahomans, that will add up to $72 million per year – or $720 million over the 10 years between Census counts, Dorman notes.
“The Friday event is a tremendous opportunity to ensure those who serve are counted,” Dorman said. “We want to ensure every Oklahoman is counted. That way, we do not lose vital resources and allow other states which did better in Census response to get Oklahomans’ tax dollars.”
The Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy was established in 1983 by citizens seeking to create a strong advocacy network that would provide a voice for the needs of children and youth in Oklahoma, particularly those in the state’s care and those growing up amid poverty, violence, abuse and neglect, disparities, or other situations that put their lives and future at risk.
OICA’s mission statement reads: “Creating awareness, taking action and changing policy to improve the health, safety, and well-being of Oklahoma’s children.”
For more information, visit oica.org.