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A Census 2020 form is shown in Toksook Bay, Alaska, in January. Some Maryland lawmakers are questioning whether the state has planned enough outreach to encourage residents to complete the Census. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
A Census 2020 form is shown in Toksook Bay, Alaska, in January. Some Maryland lawmakers are questioning whether the state has planned enough outreach to encourage residents to complete the Census. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull) (Gregory Bull/AP)

Maryland lawmakers remain concerned about the state’s efforts to promote the census and ensure an accurate count of the state’s residents.

Democratic state lawmakers peppered state officials Thursday about census preparation efforts, raising questions about where ads will be shown and whether there is sufficient outreach to hard-to-count groups like the homeless and immigrants.

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“No one is going to stand in our way of getting everyone counted in Maryland. We are putting in the miles, the minutes and the messaging,” Robert McCord, the state’s planning secretary, told members of the House of Delegates Appropriations Committee during a briefing.

The census, required by the U.S. Constitution, aims to count every person living in the country as of April 1.

Residents will start receiving mailings encouraging them to fill out the census forms in mid-March, and they’ll be able to do so online, over the phone or on paper.

Census data is used in a variety of ways, including drawing congressional districts and state legislative districts, as well as determining how and where federal money is spent on programs such as school lunches, law enforcement assistance and transportation projects.

Del. Maggie McIntosh, a Baltimore Democrat who chairs the Appropriations Committee, called it “literally one of the most important things that happens.”

House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones, who recently wrote to McCord to question his department’s efforts, observed the briefing.

McCord touted his department’s work, including a $1.6 million advertising plan that includes radio, television and digital ads, as well as billboards and bus signs. But he couldn’t say when and where exactly all of the ads would appear, because the contracts are still being finalized.

McCord also acknowledged that not all of the grants to local governments to help pay for census promotion have been distributed. He said that’s because some local governments haven’t filled out all the paperwork necessary to receive the money.

“You’re saying that currently one month out from the census, all of those jurisdictions do not have their money in hand?” asked Del. Jheanelle Wilkins, a Montgomery County Democrat.

She added: “We are a little bit down to the wire at this point.”

Wilkins also encouraged officials to enlist the influence of Republican Gov. Larry Hogan in their efforts.

“The governor is really great about getting out his messages. We all know his social media is powerful,” she said.

McCord said the governor would appear in a pro-census public service announcement.

The state’s new census director, Lorena Rivera, was not present for the briefing. She previously served as the state’s Hispanic affairs director, and was moved to the census position in January, after lawmakers raised questions following the resignation of the prior census director in December.

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