Census: Fill out the Form
By Dianne Anderson
Fire up the old computer, dust off the laptop, or get the smartphone palm ready.
Residents over the next week will start receiving their special Census code by snail mail. They are expected to fill out that form, or they can expect the knock at the door.
For those that need extra help, most libraries across the nation are providing spaces for people to walk in, apply for Census jobs and fill out the forms at the site. Many school districts are also offering the community access to their computers.
It’s all to make sure that the state gets a good headcount, which is no small feat.
Potentially, it means states can get their fair share of the huge hopeful $675 billion in federal dollars coming down across the nation. That money goes to support important local community level and county programs, including, but not limited to, education, health, housing. It also impacts whether California gains or loses a congressional seat.
Recently, the city of Long Beach rolled out its first of several community Census outreach trainings to come.
“We’re planning some census counter training for the community. Our first [was] held at the Michelle Obama Library. We do have many trainings available and also looking for volunteers to help in the census efforts,” said Julian Cernuda, 2020 Census Project Manager, City of Long Beach.
He is working with partners in healthcare, nonprofits, business and local government agencies, but he said some people may have difficulty participating, especially the elderly.
Those without access to technology can go to their local library, or school. Long Beach is also working with County QACs [Questionnaire Assistance Center] and QAKs (Kiosks) to help the community complete questionnaires online.
City libraries have been activated as Census help stations to make sure that people have a safe place to complete the form.
The Parks, Rec and Marine facilities, the WIC office, their main health department, and additional Census stations sponsored by nonprofits and other organizations are also readily available through the complete count committee.
At the higher levels, the city kicked off its Complete Count Committee last July with local organizations across all sectors, including the committee’s co-chair, LBUSD. He said the partnership with the school district is important as they also have much to benefit from a complete count.
The effort received funding from the state, and the city council understands the importance of the Census, he added. They also have funding through the General Fund. Everyone is involved, nonprofits and hospitals, to get the word out.
“With Census champions training, we have reached over 350 front line staff, librarians, people at the counters, those processing billings and payments, the city clerks office,” he said.
This time around, there is a big push because California experienced an undercount in the past. It cost a lot of potential funding, and states are now dedicating more resources, and local municipalities understand the need to collaborate.
Concerns have also come up about the safety factor in filling out forms online. He said everyone must be careful that they are on the Census.gov website before they give private information.
Door knockers or enumerators all have a Census Bureau badge with a watermark, and employee ID. They should be ready and willing to provide a telephone number to confirm their Census identification.
Many nonprofits are now canvassing the community to let them know that the Census is coming, and why it’s important.
Cernuda said that the Census impacts just about everything.
“It impacts funding for our schools, the roads, even something as boring and as important as our water, and the infrastructure,” Cernuda adds.
In Santa Ana, Steven Kim, executive director and co-founder of the nonprofit Project Kinship, is helping inmates get involved in the process, which may be a very new experience.
Many formerly incarcerated have been historically excluded from civic processes, and said getting a correct count impacts their lives on so many levels.
“There is a stigma in their experience that they couldn’t qualify or participate. We spend a lot of time educating and encouraging them, answering questions on how they can participate in the Census,” said Kim, a former gang member, and an adjunct professor with the University of Southern California in the School of Social Work.
His program helps youth on the school to prison pipelines, some have been incarcerated, expelled or suspended. The nonprofit provides adult programs in jails, offers reentry work and workforce development at their offices.
Since the program started in 2014, they have soared from two part-time staff to 52 staff. They served over 2,000 last year.
“The beautiful thing about Project Kinship right now is that we are 90% people of color, 70 % formerly incarcerated or system impacted, and 70% women in management. We don’t see those types of demographics in organizations this size in Orange County right now,” he said.
The Census is all about how the money comes down. He hopes some of the many billions of dollars can trickle down to serve his demographic.
He would like to see more money go to those helping others in the trenches, and the under-resourced.
“I think it would increase public safety, increase health for people, and mental health,” he said. “We continue to see cycles of violence, of poverty, incarceration. It really has to do with communities being under-resourced, not that people want to be stuck in the cycle.”
For more information, see www.longbeach.gov/census or firstname.lastname@example.org
For Project Kinship, see https://www.projectkinship.org