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Community leader responds to Wilmington's census plans

Delaware Public Media

Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki recently issued an executive order creating a committee to ensure an accurate count of city residents in the federal census next year.

“I applaud the Mayor,” said Maria Matos, president of the Latin American Community Center in Wilmington and former census taker. Matos says the outreach the committee is tasked with is crucial.


“One of the things that I’m hoping is that before those census forms are sent out to the community, is that our communities are bombarded with education,” she said.

Matos says literature and in-person outreach will need to be available in Spanish.

She notes submitting a census form next year may be intimidating to some in the Latino community. “We have to make sure that the connection is made with the Latino community," she said. "So that the people knocking on those doors are trusted."

"Because the environment that we live in right now is an anti-immigrant, anti-Latino sentiment across this country that was started by the President of the United States," she added.

The U.S. census determines federal funding distribution, congressional representation and Electoral College votes.

Matos says a full count is important “so that we can get a share of the federal dollars that are available to the state, and the state passes it through to communities in need.”

“It’s hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of dollars if you undercount your population. So it’s important to do it accurately,” said Mayor Purzycki.

According to a City of Wilmington statement, the census determines funding for local schools, hospitals, nutrition programs, health care, and lunch programs.

A U.S. district court judge recently orderedthe Trump administration to stop plans to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census— which some fear would depress participation in the census by non-citizens and family members.

The Trump Administration plans to ask the Supreme Court to review the lower court’s ruling.

Matos says she hopes the federal judge’s ruling is not overturned. She says she thinks a citizenship question would deter participation not only by non-citizens.

“A lot of other people will kind of hesitate to open the door to a census taker, and I think that is something that all states, counties and municipalities have to fight against,” she said.

Wilmington’s Census 2020 Complete Count Committee is recommended by the U.S. Census Bureau. It will be chaired by the Mayor and the City Council President, and consist of city and elected officials, faith leaders and education representatives.

Purzycki says he used an executive order to create the Complete Count Committee to expedite the process. “We can’t afford to let Council delay any more than they are now,” said Purzycki.


Earlier this month, Wilmington City Council failed to pass an ordinance creating the Complete Count Committee amid disagreements over a council seat that has been vacant since November.

The state created its Complete Count Commission in September.

Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.
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