Local Effort For Census Outreach
By Dianne Anderson
Go online, get on the phone and make the call, or just put the form in the mail.
Either way, anyone who misses the opportunity to fill out the census questionnaire is bound to get the knock at the door.
The census is mandated, and it is the law.
If nothing else, filling out the Census information these days should be a little bit easier now that everyone is firmly planted in their homes, at least till the end of April.
Michael Hall is Special Assistant Chief Field officer for the Census Bureau in the Los Angeles area, covering seven states with outreach. He said the last day to respond has been moved to August 14, but they are still encouraging participation as soon as possible.
Even in the best of times, reaching communities of color has been difficult. This time around, there’s a different dynamic with the coronavirus, but the Census is prepared, if needed, to meet the challenge.
He said that the COVID 19 crisis is an important part of their planning in the coming months, and safety is by far the most important focus in the process. During this time, they are asking that while the community is sheltered in place that they take the time to respond online or call or mailing back the paper questionnaire.
“If we have to go out and knock on doors, we’ll make sure they’re staying six feet apart and talking to people in a cooperative way. We’ll be getting that message out and following the guidelines of all of our health officials,” Hall said.
In past decades, there have been some successful approaches to get the community involved in a complete count. He believes that understanding the importance of the Census is key.
Congressional seats are one area that holds strong consequences, but the community can also be encouraged in knowing that in doing their civic duty, they can expect something in return.
“What’s in it for me? I talk about how the money is going to be used to allocate money for school districts,” he said, adding that with the right headcount, the community can get rid of the trailers and bungalows often seen at lower-income elementary schools.
Those trailers offer emergency classroom solutions when the population growth was greater than projected. As a result of the undercount, the money never flowed down from the federal government to build more schools.
He said the census helps with those indicators so school districts can establish a viable plan. When the community understands that their count matters to impact schools, health systems and roads, they’re more likely to get involved.
“When you talk about emergency care at hospitals, how crowded is that hospital? They get federal dollars based on the census count. Police care, road care, there are a number of different things,” he said.
In the Los Angeles area, the faith-based partners are reaching out to schools that are feeding students. Materials are placed in the hot lunches for kids to take home and remind their parents to use their cell phone and call, he said.
Getting at the real numbers is critical to ensure that the right amount of federal dollars is allocated based on local census numbers, he added.
A robust faith-based outreach in the African American community also helps in raising awareness about how easy it is to answer the short questionnaire.
“We’re working with our partners. We realize that not everyone has internet access, but a number of people have internet with cell phones, but they can also call our census phone number. They don’t have to get online to do that,” he said.
Based on the census count, communities will receive a portion of $675 billion each year, or possibly more, to be used to provide a range of services and planning around neighborhood improvements, public health, education, and transportation, to name a few.
“The Census Bureau says hundreds of billions of dollars will be allocated each year. So, if we miss you in the 2020 census, your community is going to miss out on those dollars for the next ten years until the 2030 census comes around,” Hall said.
For more information, see www.my2020census.gov to take census online, answer questions at californiacensus.org or call 844-330-2020