The Heart of West Michigan United Way awards over $200,000 dollars for 2020 Census efforts

Jul 15, 2019

Credit U.S. Census Bureau

In an effort to reach historically undercounted community in the upcoming census, the Heart of West Michigan United Way has awarded mini grants to 19 Kent county agencies. The mini grants range from $5,000 to $20,000. 

One of these agencies is the Asian Community Outreach, an organization providing services to help the Asian community in Kent County. Crystal Buis president of the organization says the hardest to count populations within the Asian community are immigrants, new arrivals, and the elderly. 

“In those groups, we are looking at the Vietnamese population, they are the largest ethnic Asian group in West Michigan along with, I would say, they are called the Bhutanese population and the Burmese population.”

According to a recent study from the U.S. Census Bureau, Asian Americans were the least likely of any racial group to report that they intended to complete the U.S. Census. 

Buis thinks this is because many in the Asian Americans do not understand English well, and her concerns match the data of a national study from the Center for American Progress that found that Asian Americans have the highest rates of limited English proficiency in the nation. 

“Language barrier, the ability to read and understand English, and understand what is this piece of paper.” 

To ensure every Asian American in Kent County is counted Buis says their group will providing education in every Asian group’s native language. 

“We are going to basically go to these communities provide workshops and Census Day events to help people navigate the census either online or through the short form paper census.” 

Historically, the U.S. Census has disproportionately undercounted people of color, low income households, older adults, LGBTQ communing members, immigrants and people whose native language is not English.

Michelle Jokisch Polo, WGVU News.