COVID, Census Concerns for Nonprofits While ReOpening
By Dianne Anderson
Much of what Paula Wood does at the community level through her Census outreach, along with her after school programs and summer Freedom School, has been at a slow crawl since Covid-19.
At best, trying to reach community and students has been spotty, and the access to technology leaves a lot to be desired.
Wood was ready to step up local outreach in a big way through her Census grant a few months ago, specifically to target local beauty and barber shops, which remain closed. She had started to hold presentations at churches, mostly focused on the African American community, but that was before the pandemic.
Now, as Long Beach starts to ease back into a curbside pick up this week, she is thinking of ways to get back on track to get the community activated around the biggest count of a decade.
Since March, the after-school program has moved to an online platform to make headway with the kids within the low-income community she serves.
“We’ve been checking with parents to see what kind of resources they need, and reminding them if they haven’t seen the census form, how they can get it and fill it out,” said Paula Wood, executive director of the nonprofit Success in Challenges in Long Beach.
Now in its 16th year, Success in Challenges offers year-round services to 65 students daily during the school year, and serve 45 daily in their summer school curriculum at the Northpointe site. Their six-week Freedom School program reading enrichment camp usually starts at the end of June to August. Unless the current situation changes, she expects her outreach to continue via internet.
Although many of her students have Chromebooks from their schools, the internet is either too slow to access in the apartment complex, or the kids and their parents are not comfortable using the technology. For now, her program tries to connect by texting or talking with students on the phone. Or, they use popular social media.
She also uses Zoom, especially trying to get kids involved at the younger grades, but they don’t know how to use it, or they don’t like it.
“Some of it is that the kids say Zoom is too much like school,” she said.
To deal with the constraints, her staff is putting together youtube video lessons on several topics to make the material more visual. Teens also follow up with staff and discussions on social media platforms.
But in the coming weeks, everything is leaning toward turning the community’s attention to the census, which is critical to bring federal funding for important services, and to increase programs and projects in vulnerable areas.
Women in Action, a food caterer program, located in her office building, has been helping get census flyers out along with the food giveaway for families and seniors.
Covid-19 is the big impediment to outreach, but she wonders how long the virus will go on if people keep ignoring the safeguards. In some areas, young people are not wearing face masks, for instance at Nicholson Gardens where she drops off services supplies. No social distancing seems to be in effect there.
That could be dangerous for young children and seniors. Last week, New York Gov. Cuomo announced that 73 children had complications from Covid 19 with high fever, respiratory problems, and a rare rash. Three children died of heart problems from pediatric toxic-shock inflammation syndrome related to the virus. The youngest was five years old.
Without the right precautions, Wood worries the virus will just keep circulating in the community.
“It’s just like at the beaches now, people are not wearing masks. Some grandparents live in the homes with [people] coming and going,” she said. “You go into certain areas and you would forget there’s a virus going on.”
Long Beach is now at about 1,000 tests a day and completed 60,000 tests. The mayor is calling on the community to get tested, especially the service sector, public and healthcare workers even if they don’t have symptoms. They can sign up for a test at one of six sites across the city on the city website.
The city is preparing to move forward consistent with the Governor’s mandated stages, starting at Phase 2 this week, which allows smaller retailers open for curbside pickup only, or shop online for purchase and pickup.
Estimates are that the Census will draw about $675 billion per year or more to help support essential programs for the next ten years in Long Beach.
Deputy City Manager Kevin Jackson expressed that completing the Census must be a priority to bring money to the community.
“Recent events have shown us how critical funding is to support hospitals, schools, public transportation, affordable housing and small businesses in order to keep a society working for everyone, especially for our most vulnerable communities. If we all complete the census form, we can take control of our future no matter the circumstances,” he said.
For help with the Census, contact Paula Wood at 800.791. 5952 Ext.102, or see https://successinchallenges.org/
For more information, see my2020census.gov