CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The West Virginia Complete Count Commission established by Gov. Jim Justice focusing on 2020 Census efforts broke into subcommittees for the first time on Wednesday.
“We are here to come up with strategies to get people who traditionally do not respond to the census to find ways to make sure that they respond,” Jill Upson, the executive director of Herbert Henderson Office of Minority Affairs and part of the Minority Affairs subcommittee told MetroNews.
The subcommittees broke down to begin the day at the state Capitol into groups such as Minority Affairs, Health, Higher Education, Media Relations, Legislative Representatives, Municipal League and more.
Ed Aractingi, the Chief Information Officer at Marshall is part of the Higher Education subcommittee along with representatives from the Higher Education Policy Commission and state Department of Education. He told MetroNews that students are always tricky with participating in the census for various reasons but it’s just as important to them as ever.
He said students from out-of-state still count for West Virginia if they live here. The lack of participants and numbers being down could affect funding for areas in student living, scholarships and the schools they attend.
“We are meeting to see how can we make sure students are aware and interested in participating in the Census. We are going to start working with student leadership and different aspects of Marshall,” Aractingi told MetroNews.
The first item on the agenda for the all-day committee meetings was a proposal of budget. Much of the discussion during this period was on advertising and what the commission could make possible with the limited budget they have.
There was a 2020 Census Operations Update by U.S. Census Bureau representatives focusing on jobs and recruitment. The Census Bureau said employment numbers are down and they are looking to hire in West Virginia for the next year.
Brainstorming sessions took place in the afternoon to establish three goals and three challenges for each subcommittee. The groups also developed an action plan to address those goals.
Upson said her group is working to build the message that the Census is not an intrusion on anyone’s privacy but it’s crucial information that the state and U.S. government needs to have. She took into consideration programs such as the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and ones within the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) where losing funding would be ‘catastrophic.’
“Minorities, specifically people of color, have traditionally had a distrust of government entities,” Upson said. “We need to be able to get the message out there of why it is important to respond and how it’s going to help minority communities by having representation, by having resources and programs in place.”
The commission will set up future meeting dates by the end of the day on Wednesday but officials hope to meet at least once a month, if not sooner.