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Pittsburgh, Allegheny County form 2020 census outreach committee

Bob Bauder
295941Census
Gregg Behr, executive director of the Grable Foundation (at podium) and Betty Cruz, founder of the Change Agency, will co-chair a committee to educate residents on the importance of participating in the 2020 census. Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald looks on in the background.

Pittsburgh and Allegheny County officials have formed an outreach committee that will encourage residents — particularly those who might be reluctant participants — to fill out census forms.

Officials said an accurate count of all residents for the 2020 census is key in determining federal funding for such things as housing, social services and highways.

“Each person that’s undercounted, that’s a cost to our region of $15,000 to $20,000 per person undercounted over the course of the coming decade,” said Gregg Behr, executive director of the Grable Foundation, who will co-chair the Complete Count Committee with Betty Cruz, founder of the Change Agency, and Stefani Pashman, CEO of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development.

The committee will develop a plan in coming months to target residents of the county and educate them on why census participation is important, according to Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald and Peduto on Tuesday announced the committee’s formation outside Fitzgerald’s offices in the county courthouse.

“When we look at funding and the critical resources that come, whether it’s for transportation or economic development, the federal and state government look at the census numbers in order to be able to determine eligibility,” Peduto said. “We have a responsibility to make sure that every person is counted in this city, throughout this county and throughout this state. The only way that we’re going to be able to do it is work together as one community.”

Lynne V. Newman, partnership coordinator for the Philadelphia Regional Census Center, said counties began forming outreach committees for the 2000 census. This is Allegheny County’s second such committee. Peduto said Allegheny County is first in the state to form a committee for the coming census.

Newman described the committees as “neighbor-to-neighbor programs” to help get word out. She said census employees would conduct the actual count. Residents can complete forms online, over the telephone or on paper.

“The census is so important,” she said. “It gives a voice to the voiceless. It enables communities to plan for the future. All of the information that we collect is held confidential. We do not disclose any personally identifiable information.”

Officials named a diverse group of 26 people to serve on the committee.

“Many in our community are fearful about being counted and what that will mean, whether we’re talking about our Muslim neighbors, post-9/11 veterans, older adults, immigrants and refugees or LGBTQIA community members who’ve often felt underrepresented or even at worst demonized,” Cruz said. “I’m glad that we’re starting early because it’s going to be a lot of work to build that trust and to reach all Pittsburghers.”

Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bob at 412-765-2312, [email protected] or via Twitter @bobbauder.

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