Did you fill out your census form? Data from the U.S. Census Bureau show more than 99.9 percent of Arizona households have been counted in the 2020 Census. Final numbers for Maricopa County are not yet available. The deadline for participation in the first-ever online census changed numerous times, but Census Bureau operations were finally completed on October 15, 2020. What is at stake for the region? Congressional representation and $20 billion dollars in federal funding every year to Arizona for local programs in housing, education, transportation, healthcare, public safety and more. The 2020 Census was a census like no other, challenged by a potential citizenship question, numerous court battles, changing response deadlines and a global pandemic. Through it all, the public outreach campaign launched by the Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG) remained strong. Beginning in April of 2019, MAG’s iCount2020 initiative took a multimedia, bilingual approach to demonstrate how a complete and accurate count is critical to receiving our fair share of federal money for dozens of programs and services in the Maricopa region. Those efforts paid off. Maricopa County’s self-response rate at press time was 68.3 percent. That compares favorably to Arizona’s self-response rate of 64 percent and the nation’s at 67 percent. When households don’t self-respond, census workers obtain data from neighbors or other sources, bringing response rates higher. In Maricopa County, more than half of those who responded did so via the internet — an option that did not exist ten years ago. Also making a difference — strategic targeting of historically undercounted communities. “From the start, diversity and inclusiveness were priorities,” said Chandler City Manager Marsha Reed, co-chair of MAG’s Regional Census Communication Group, which provided oversight of the campaign. “Messaging and images, often featuring local community members, were available in English and Spanish.” The 18-month campaign budget of $2 million covered a wide range of media platforms, including television and radio, digital video such as Hulu and YouTube, mobile and desktop displays, bus wraps, billboards, print ads, a light rail wrap, and online search investments. These core components of the campaign, including the bilingual iCount2020 website, became even more important during the pandemic as ways to continue safe “contactless” outreach and education. People across the region were able to stay connected with iCount2020 and the census through opt-in text messages and email blasts. The iCount2020 social media channels — Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram — took the place of public gatherings, drawing thousands into a community of supporters that saw the value in completing the census for the future. “These digital strategies, combined with innovative local community outreach by member agencies, helped the region rise to the challenges to achieve a complete and accurate census count,” said Goodyear City Manager Julie Arendall, co-chair of MAG’s Regional Census Communication Group. “The MAG iCount2020 initiative demonstrated, once again, that we are stronger together and we can make a difference in the future of the region.” Real-time reporting on response rates by census tract created the information needed to adjust quickly and align investment to areas most in need. Census Bureau data were leveraged to target specific geographic areas to encourage communities with low response rates to participate in the census.