We love giving awards to decision makers who have stepped up for kids. This year during Children’s Advocacy Week, in addition to the usual Champions for Children awards given to legislators who prioritized kids during last year’s General Assembly, we also gave 2020 Census Champions awards to those in state government who went above and beyond to promote a fair and complete 2020 Census count of the commonwealth.

Going into 2020, I thought the single most important thing we could accomplish for children was to ensure every Kentucky resident got counted in the 2020 Census. I had spent years learning how young children and people of color were persistently undercounted in past censuses and how critical an accurate accounting of the population is to guarantee Kentucky gets its fair share of billions in federal funds for important programs and services. I learned how a complete count is essential to making sure voting districts are equitably drawn and so that governments, businesses, schools and hospitals have reliable data to plan for the future.

And then the COVID-19 pandemic entered Kentucky in early March – right when households began receiving invitations to complete the census.

Though the 2020 Census was no less important during the pandemic, it was now competing for attention with COVID-19 and the ripple effects it has had on employment, education, housing, and virtually every other aspect of daily life. Not only was there little proverbial oxygen for the 2020 Census amidst a once-in-a-century pandemic but, because the virus is easily transmitted through the air, many of Kentucky’s plans to “get out the count” had to be scrapped to protect public health.

Despite the many challenges, our state achieved a higher self-response rate for the 2020 Census than in 2010! We know that this is due to a lot of hard work done by Complete Count Committees, Census Bureau Partnership Specialists, government leaders, schools, nonprofits and many, many more individuals, organizations and sectors. We thank each and every person who promoted the 2020 Census! I sincerely wish we could give an award to everyone who helped make this decennial census more successful than the last.

Unfortunately, we don’t have an unlimited budget for awards, so we focused our 2020 Census Champions awards on census cheerleaders in state government. Please join us in thanking these individuals for their contributions.

We award Jon Park (@jpark1262) for beginning state government’s work with the Census Bureau back in 2017, writing the executive order that established Kentucky’s Complete Count Task Force (a first for our state) during Governor Bevin’s administration, and chairing that task force. THANK YOU!

We award Dustin Isaacs (@DustinIsaacsKY) for being Jon Park’s right-hand man with Kentucky’s Complete Count Task Force, travelling across the state encouraging local elected officials to form Complete Count Committees, and pulling together the one-year-out press briefing at the Capitol. THANK YOU!

We award Senate President Robert Stivers (@kysenatepres) for his pre-pandemic efforts, such as highlighting the census in conference speeches and telling local leaders that the census was the most important thing Kentucky needed to focus on in 2020. THANK YOU!

We award Senator Morgan McGarvey (@MorganMcGarvey) for being an active member of Kentucky’s Complete Count Task Force, facilitating outreach with teachers, and getting a Senate Resolution passed to raise awareness of the 2020 census. THANK YOU!

We award Representative Attica Scott (@atticascott4ky) for proactively reaching out to Census Bureau staff to connect them with faith-based leaders, focusing on the 2020 Census in Facebook Live events and in speeches, and introducing House Resolutions promoting a fair and complete count. THANK YOU!

We award Governor Andy Beshear (@GovAndyBeshear) and Lt. Governor Jacqueline Coleman (@LtGovColeman) for promoting the 2020 Census in daily press briefings, through videos and social media, and on state websites during and despite the pandemic. We are especially grateful to Governor Beshear for holding a press conference last March to unveil the Count Me In KY website created by Kentucky Nonprofit Network. THANK YOU!

We thank Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS; @CHFSKy) Secretary Eric Friedlander (@CHFS_CaresforKy) for chairing the state’s census task force under Governor Beshear, raising awareness among some of Kentucky’s hardest to count families through CHFS, and doing his own promotional videos. THANK YOU!

Lastly, but certainly not least, we thank CHFS Deputy Secretary Carrie Banahan, Executive Administrative Secretary Karen Cantrell, and Communications Advisor Kinsey Morrison (@kintaymor) for their instrumental work in pulling together the reconstituted state task force for the Beshear administration, helping carry out to work of the task force, planning the governor’s 2020 Census press conference, and maintaining a steady focus on census through daily COVID-19 press briefings. THANK YOU!