Mar 5, 2020
By Sen. Bill Dodd
The 2020 Census, which kicks off April 1, determines where billions in federal dollars are spent for over 70 federal programs that pay for things like roads and schools.
At the same time, the census decides the number of seats states get in the House of Representatives and the allotment of electoral votes toward picking the president.
There are no guarantees, especially in California, a state with historically undercounted communities including renters, young men, kids, African Americans and Latinos.
That’s why California leaders have launched a statewide effort to ensure an accurate and successful count this time around, investing in outreach and communication. The California Complete Count Census 2020 campaign will deploy an army of newly hired census workers, the media and community groups to go to hard-to-reach neighborhoods throughout California and urge participation.
Census and Representation video URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=6&v=83UNSPG3BHA&feature=emb_logo
Not surprisingly, many hard-to-count communities are right here in Northern California, including in Sonoma County. In fact, across Senate District 3, which includes Rohnert Park, Petaluma and Sonoma, officials have identified numerous areas where people of diverse demographic and socioeconomic backgrounds are at risk of being excluded. One census estimate says nearly 45% of the district — which at last count totaled nearly 970,000 people in six counties — have some hard-to-count characteristics.
What are those traits? Renters and people living in apartments present the biggest challenges followed by low-income and foreign-born people. The fear is some families will not participate in the census because of their immigration status. The concern was raised when the Trump administration tried unsuccessfully to add a citizenship question to the census.
Others might not respond because they have privacy concerns or worry about having more than the allowable number of people in their home. Roughly 40% of district housing is renter occupied and 8% moved from outside their county in the past year.
Still others face language barriers. About 10% of district residents have limited English skills, according to census estimates. About two-thirds speak Spanish, 11% speak Tagalog and 7% speak Mandarin or Cantonese.
Some people simply don’t understand what the census is or why it’s so important. About 14% do not have access to the internet and 12% of adults over 25 didn’t graduate from high school.
Of course, all personal information submitted to the census is kept confidential. Nothing is shared with law enforcement, landlords or anyone else. No one should avoid doing it, regardless of immigration status, age or criminal history. No matter who you are or where you live, everyone counts.
Starting in late March, census forms will be available in paper form, in English and Spanish, as well as online in 12 different languages. Heads of households may begin responding immediately, counting every person living in their household.
Those who do not respond by May can expect a census worker to knock on your door. And they will be knocking with good reason. Each uncounted person costs Californians about $2,000 per year for the next decade. The loss of information about where people live, how many people there are and what they need can also affect federal for schools, housing and health care.
Census and Federal Funding video URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wLFjPTogMIs
Money you paid through taxes would instead go to another state. What’s more, the information is used to draw state legislative and congressional district lines, affecting the entire state’s political influence along with the power of certain communities. Even if a state’s total is high enough to maintain its congressional seats, an undercount in an ethnically diverse region could dilute power for that community.
Educating Californians about the nationwide headcount is an important job. Everyone must be involved, whether we’re walking neighborhoods or talking to friends about it. We all must be ambassadors for the census to ensure everyone is counted and California receives the funding and representation it deserves.
Senator Bill Dodd represents the 3rd Senate District, which includes all or portions of Napa, Yolo, Sonoma, Solano, Sacramento and Contra Costa counties. More information on Senator Bill Dodd can be found at www.senate.ca.gov/dodd.
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