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October 22, 2020

My Turn, Wilson Cherry: Completing census is vitally important for all

By Wilson Cherry

With the extension of the 2020 census deadline, it is extremely important that individuals and their families who have members with developmental and intellectual disabilities complete census forms in order to assure that the appropriations for services they need are planned and allocated. 

Every 10 years, the census is designed to count everyone in the United States. Yes, “everyone matters” in the count. The data is utilized to figure out how much money state and local governments get for Medicaid, housing vouchers, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), preschool and special education programs. Over the years, when there isn’t enough money available, frequently services and programs for people with disabilities suffer the consequences. 

Census data is also used to determine how many representatives each state gets in the United States House of Representatives. It only takes a few minutes to fill out the forms and can be done in-person, by mail, or online. Parents, guardians, advocates or supporters of individuals with disabilities can fill out the information.

People with disabilities make up approximately 22% of the American public according to figures released by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in 2018. In addition to social and structural barriers, people with disabilities face wide spread economic inequality, cultural isolation and often discrimination in education, employment and a broad range of societal activities as reasonable accommodations are not provided if they are not counted.

The accuracy and inclusion of as many people as possible has a major impact on how America is governed. Census figures help elected officials, community leaders and advocates address disparities in providing services for the disabled. Fair appropriations, representation and federal dollars distributed are tied to our accurate count.

Regardless of political affiliations, it is of the utmost importance that all citizens of North Carolina are counted. Special education grants provide resources for disabled students, and vocational rehabilitation funding helps increase employment opportunities for the disabled who may be developmentally or physically impaired. 

Whether you may know someone who is homeless, incarcerated or institutionalized, by some other means or matter, it is absolutely necessary that we help our families and friends get counted. The health, well-being, and our economic and political representation is vitally connected to the numbers. Please reach out to as many people as possible to make sure that they are counted as our government budgets, plans and provides vital services to all of our citizens. 

Wilson R. Cherry is director of community affairs at Rowan Vocational Opportunities Inc. He is an advocate for individuals with developmental disabilities as well as Rowan County United Way.

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