Every 10 years, the Census Bureau conducts a huge operation where enumerators work hard to count every single person living in the United States. Temporary workers from your area are now being hired to count the people living in your county. It’s very important that Lakota people respond to the Census. The temporary workers hired in your area must swear under oath to protect your personal identifying information (PII). The oath census employees take is for a lifetime. A census worker cannot share your information in any way even after the count is complete. The penalty for a census worker who shares the personal identifying information with anyone else is up to 5 years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines. We want to encourage all of you to respond to the census questions. This year, the Census will invite you to respond online, by mail, or by telephone. Since the majority of us don’t have mail delivered to our homes, a census enumerator will likely visit every reservation household and leave instructions on how to respond. If you don’t really want to share your information with the enumerator, you can respond online, by phone or mail. However, if you fail to respond by the last week in April 2020, the census enumerator will probably visit your house again to help you respond. One purpose for the Decennial count is to determine political representation. For example, when the total population of an area increases, our political representation needs might also change. An increase in the population may actually require addition representation in both the state and federal governments. Currently, South Dakota has two senators and one house representative elected to speak for us in Washington, DC. Tribal leaders are asking everyone to respond to the census by including every member of your household. It doesn’t matter if you have people living in your home who aren’t listed on your housing lease, include everyone in your response. The Census Bureau will never share your personally identifying information (PII) with the housing authority, department of social services or any other agencies providing services to you or your family. Everyone must be counted in order for tribes to receive the maximum funding for our federally funded programs over the next 10 years. Contrary to what some of our people believe, the tribe does not receive federal funding based on how many people are listed in the tribal enrollment department. The funding of the many federal programs Lakota people use for services is allocated depending on the number of people living in our county and state. According to the George Washington University, “In FY2016, South Dakota received $2,386,951,373 through 55 federal spending programs guided by data derived from the 2010 Census.” Services Lakota people at Rosebud depend upon are funded through financial appropriations made by Congress to federal spending programs. For example, some program dollars affected by the 2020 Census include Medicaid, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), Medicare Part B, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Title I grants to local educational agencies (schools), Head Start/Early Head Start, Special Education grants (IDEA), Indian Housing Programs, National School Lunch Program, Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, Women-Infants-Children Supplemental Nutrition Program (WIC), Native American Employment and Training programs, Cooperative Extension Service, Federal Pell Grants, Unemployment Insurance Administration, the School Breakfast Program as well as many other services our people depend upon for services on our reservation and throughout this state. The Decennial Census brings funding to our reservations. Program funding shortfalls are likely due to us being undercounted. We must all provide accurate and complete information to the 2020 Census. Our reservations deserve fully funded programs based on a complete census count.
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