The 2020 Census: How Marvin Is Working Towards a Full Count

The 2020 Census: How Marvin Is Working Towards a Full Count


10 questions. 10 minutes. 10 years of impact. The 2020 Census will determine the federal funding and representation that communities receive for years to come. Despite COVID-19, the census is still underway, with outreach now taking place online and via telephone.

One individual conducting crucial outreach is Marvin, a census worker and participant at The Fortune Society who spends time at home calling Fortune clients, friends, and family to educate them about the census and assist them in responding online. Marvin’s work is especially important for ensuring that people with justice involvement, many of whom live in historically underserved and undercounted communities, participate in the census so that they receive the federal funding, resources and representation they deserve.

“You're helping your fellow neighbors and family members when you sign up for the census,” Marvin said. “You're doing it for everybody, not only for yourself.”

As an active and involved member of the Fortune community, Marvin was hired as a census worker for Fortune in March. As a Complete Count Fund Awardee, Fortune is one of several community organizations that received funding to conduct census education and outreach to ensure a full count.

One call at a time, Marvin is working towards this.

“It's important for you to be counted so that the funding can be properly sent to your area...[for] the roads, the schools, the parks, healthcare,” he said.

If individuals don’t fill out the census, their communities don’t receive the federal funding they’re entitled to. This funding goes towards key services that impact daily life, including public education, roads, infrastructure and healthcare. The census also shapes how congressional districts are drawn and the ability of people to elect leaders who represent their interests.

Despite the importance of the census, Marvin says that some people he calls are initially hesitant to complete it. Some say they don’t have time to fill out the census, while others are skeptical of giving information to the government. Amidst COVID-19, some people don’t realize the census is still happening.

When this happens, Marvin explains that the census takes no more than 10 minutes to complete and does not require sharing sensitive information. He explains why participation in the census is in the best interests of the individual and their communities. After explaining, Marvin says people are receptive, showing how one conversation can make a difference.

“You get them to understand the importance and where the money goes and what being counted means,” he said. “Then they understand.”

People with justice involvement often come from historically undercounted communities, with poor access to quality programs and resources. Some people in these communities may understandably distrust government and be reluctant to provide information. This is a big reason why outreach from Fortune’s census workers is so critical—they are credible messengers who are able to establish trust and pass on important information. If these communities receive more federal funding, they will be better equipped to address the structural inequalities that lead to justice involvement.

The census is just one of many ways that Marvin has been involved with the Fortune since November 2019, when he began interning for Fortune’s Alternatives to Incarceration (ATI) program, facilitating groups to help youth avoid incarceration and contributing to community-based projects. He has also been a writer for over 15 years and continues to participate in virtual sessions with Fortune’s Creative Writing program, which he says is a space to share positive energy and creative ideas during challenging times.

Marvin is eager to give back, and through his census work, is shaping the future of communities during times when funding is more important than ever.

“I just want to give as much as I can to society,” he said. “That's my give and have people feel at peace, especially in times like this.”

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