Gisele Fetterman

Gisele Fetterman, shown at the inauguration of her husband, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, helped to kick off the state’s 2020 census push on Monday. — Flickr/Office of Gov. Tom Wolf

Pennsylvania second lady Gisele Fetterman thinks that everyone should be a part of the big picture when it comes to the 2020 census.

Fetterman and state agency heads gathered in the Capitol Rotunda on Monday to make sure that everyone is included in the upcoming census count.

A former undocumented immigrant, Fetterman said, “I never understood the big picture because I never felt a part of that big picture.”

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Fetterman will set out on a statewide census tour later this month where she will meet with such hard-to-count populations as low-income communities, the homeless and residents of rural Pennsylvania.

She’ll also stress the importance of participation in the 2020 census. The tour will include stops in Philadelphia, Centre, Erie, Allegheny, Lancaster and Luzerne counties.

“Having spent my career working to address issues of equity, I understand how the individuals at the greatest risk of not being counted are the same ones who would be disproportionately affected by an inaccurate count,” Fetterman said.

Three million Pennsylvanians depend on the services provided by DHS, such as LIHEAP, SNAP, CHIP and Medicaid. All of which rely on census data to disburse funds and locate areas of great need, Department of Human Services Secretary Teresa Miller said.

Miller said the state’s hardest-to-reach population is children, because they often aren’t included in a household head count.

Department of Labor and Industry Secretary Gerard Oleksiak said that rural populations are among the most difficult groups to count in the state.

Rural areas are home to 3.4 million Pennsylvanians. Yet, in the 2000 and 2010 census’ participation was only at 75% among rural Pennsylvanians — a number he would like to see increase this census year, Oleksiak said.

The Wolf administration is spending $4 million to ramp up census outreach efforts such as media campaigns, advertising the website and grassroots efforts to make sure every Pennsylvanian is counted, and with good reason, Oleksiak said.

“Not counting just 1,000 Pennsylvanians could result in the loss of $2 million in federal funding,” he said. “Just like voting, it is our civic duty to participate.”

Cassie Miller is Associate Editor of the Pennsylvania Capital-Star, where this story first appeared.

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