2020 Census Update: The Census Is an Important Tool for the Future of Your Community

"If we don't count, we lose"
Photo Credit: Unsplash

Arturo Hilario
El Observador

The 2020 Census has been extended, and if you have not yet completed it, it is very important that you do so. The results will not only be used to help allocate funding to educational and community programs, but it is important that you count toward the next decade in this country.

Recently, Census spokeswoman for the U.S. Census Bureau Angelica Vásquez briefed us on the 2020 Census, who gave us promising figures on census responses in the Bay Area.

Within Santa Clara County, 70% of the population has responded so far. In San José specifically, it is a little less than 70%. While still a fair amount of response from the population, more can be done.

Everyone is encouraged to answer for a more accurate picture of communities and what they need in federal aid, from school lunch programs to health care and community aid for the elderly.

Vasquez is still waiting and asking those who have not responded to do so, especially in the Hispanic community.

For starters, could you give me a general update from when the 2020 Census began until now?

Well, I tell you that the percentage of people who to date have completed the census in the country is 61%. In California, the response rate has been 62.5%. In the Bay Area there is more participation, for example, in San Mateo County, with 72%, and in Santa Clara County, it is 70%. However, in San Francisco County it is 59%.

We are trying to get more responses, especially in areas [where] there is not much response, such as Pleasanton, Alameda, Contra Costa, and San Francisco.

Why do you think that in places like those you mentioned there is not as strong of a response rate to the census?

Well, right now the census is doing [an] operation where census staff are going to rural areas or no physical correspondence is coming in and they are leaving packages with census information for those people to fill out.

Why? Because initially in March we were doing this operation, [and] we had to suspend it and those homes have not had the opportunity to fill it out or to know census information. So that’s also a reason many counties in rural areas haven’t reached or are in the same percentage as the San Mateo or Santa Clara area.

So, one can still participate in the 2020 Census?

Yes, due to COVID-19 the census suspended all its operations – but as of June 1 it began, with the operation that I mentioned leaving material in rural areas and that no physical correspondence arrives; Furthermore, this operation is contactless.

Also due to COVID-19 it has been extended and dates have been modified. For example, in the original plan it was that self-response would be going on until July 31, but now it has been extended until October 31, along with censors [who] are going those homes to those homes that have received no response.

Why is it so important for the Hispanic community to specifically respond to the 2020 Census?

Well, it is definitely very important that the Hispanic community participate in the census. Why? Because there are many programs that we participate in each community and by answering the census it will determine the amount of federal funds that will go or will reach that community.

If we as Hispanics do not complete the census, we do not complete how many people live in our homes, from the smallest to the oldest person who lives with us. So those programs, for example, food in schools, those programs for older people in different institutions are not going to come. The [funding] is not going to arrive, or its going to be less than what it really is.

So that’s why it’s so important that we all count them, because those activities, those programs that we normally participate in, are going to benefit from those federal funds and we all benefit. If we don’t count, we lose, in other words.

A note I have here is that in the 2010 Census, there was a sub-count of children under 5, and wanted to know what could be done to prevent the same situation in this year’s census?

Yes, unfortunately that was not taken into account and the children were not put on. So that’s why we are encouraging and incentivizing the entire population to count everyone. All babies born until or before April 1, those children have to make sure to count them. And to young children. People have to count children where they live and sleep most of the time, even if their parents don’t live there.

If children spend their time in more than one place, count them where they stay most often. If their time, for example, is divided equally or it isn’t known where they stay more often, then people counting should put where they stayed on April 1, 2020. That is the benchmark to guide us regarding the population count.

Also, by responding to the census you can definitely help shape the resources for children and their communities for the next decade.

This, as I mentioned earlier, may include support for food programs, health insurance programs, hospitals, daycare centers, schools, and early childhood development programs. For all that, the census was counted and to distribute those federal resources or funds to each institution, each area that these programs organize.

Finally, is there anything else you would like to add about the 2020 Census?

Well, I just want to encourage all people to respond to the census. We have the website 2020census.gov, and you can also call 844-330-2020 to answer the questionnaire by phone. Or you can also fill out the printed form and send it by mail, as is traditional, as it has always been done.

Currently in the San José area the response is deficient 69.5% in total, it is a good sign. From August 11 to October 31, all the households that have not responded can answer it; but also on these dates the census takers will be going in those cases that have not received their questionnaires. Then they will knock on your door and help you complete the census form.