The Baltimore City Department of Planning developed a new online dashboard to track the response rate to the 2020 Census across the city’s 199 Census tracts, Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young announced Wednesday.
As of 1 p.m. Wednesday, 44.6 percent of Baltimoreans had completed the Census, which is available at 2020census.gov.
Officials are aiming for a citywide response rate of 73 percent, Young said. If that goal is achieved, the city would top its response rates from the past two decades, with 63 percent of Baltimore households completing the Census in 2000 and 68 percent completing it in 2010.
The Census provides the United States with a national head count once every decade, and the data collected impacts how much federal funds will go to local communities for schools, transportation infrastructure and other services.
Baltimore City’s Census dashboard includes a map that is colored corresponding to the percentage of residents in each area of the city who have completed their Census.
A majority of neighborhoods throughout Baltimore City have response rates between 30.1 and 50 percent.
Neighborhoods in North Baltimore, such as Mount Washington; Southwest Baltimore, such as Franklintown; South Baltimore, such as Riverside Park; and Southeast Baltimore, such as Patterson Park, have response rates as high as 50.1 and 75 percent.
Users can zoom in on specific neighborhoods, planning districts, council districts and legislative districts, and they can even enter their address to see their local Census response rate.
The city has also launched a grant program for businesses and community organizations to help get the word out about the Census.
That program is particularly targeting communities with “hard-to-count populations,” said Stephanie Smith, an assistant director of the city’s planning department who also serves in the Maryland House of Delegates.
Those populations include children younger than 5, seniors, people returning from prison, young black men, non-English speakers, people with disabilities and special needs, homeless individuals and LGBTQ+ youth, said Austin Davis, 2020 Census project manager for the Department of Planning, while speaking to Baltimore Fishbowl last year.
So far, the city has awarded more than $100,000 to 30 minority-owned businesses, churches, community organizations and small nonprofits that have incorporated Census materials at food distribution sites, done phone banking and conducted virtual outreach, Young said.
Smith said groups had planned to hold a lot of “high-touch” and in-person events to spread the word about the Census, but the coronavirus pandemic forced them to rethink their strategies.
Instead, they are using alternative outreach methods, such a phone banking and coupling Census materials with food relief and other resources for community members in need, Smith said.
“A lot of these communities, they’re already the go-to community organizations for relief, for food, for help, for assistance. So now we’re just finding a way to dovetail any type of relief they’re providing to their neighbors with some messages about the Census,” she said.
To utilize a new option to complete the Census online, some Baltimore groups have set up laptops for people who otherwise would not have access to a computer or would have difficulty completing the online Census on their own, Smith said.
“We’re just trying to adapt to some of the limitations about people coming together en masse,” she said.
Residents have until mid-August to fill out the Census.
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