Lawton’s Census Week: The impact on Oklahoma DHS

Lawton's Census Week: The impact on Oklahoma DHS

LAWTON, Okla. (TNN) - The Oklahoma Department of Human Services relies heavily on federal funding. Oklahoma DHS aims to improve the quality of life for the vulnerable, from low income families to foster children.

Sandra Martinez oversees the Child Welfare program in Comanche County. She says right now, there are 350 children in DHS custody that rely on federal funds.

“Our foster families are dependent on that assistance because it helps with everyday needs our children has," said Martinez. "Basic needs, like shelter, food, clothing.”

That money is all dependent on what the Census yields.

“This is a chance for anybody that has at any time felt like they couldn’t do enough for our community, especially for our most vulnerable population," Martinez said.

But federal funding goes far beyond making sure children in DHS custody are taken care of. Fred Ikard is the DHS Director for Comanche and Caddo counties and says every program within DHS is federally funded.

That includes the SNAP Program, Medicaid, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and more.

“It’s imperative we maximize the county because we’re talking about federal dollars being distributed," said Ikard. "Billions, hundreds of billions, if we can maximize our count, we can maximize our money in our county.”

Ikard adds the services he oversees won’t immediately see any changes as a result of this year’s Census.

“In the short term, it won’t have any effect, but as years go by, it could be positive or negative depending on how the Census goes," Ikard said.

DHS Community Partners, however, will see an immediate impact which is why both Martinez and Ikard continue to push the importance of taking five minutes to fill out the Census.

“We’re dependent on our community partners to help us with services with our children and vulnerable clients we do service," said Martinez.

“It’s vital every man, woman, child is counted for the Census," added Ikard. "We need to do the best we can to get the highest percentage.”

To fill out the Census, just visit 2020census.gov.

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