CAP Pushes Census Count to Meet Heavy Demand Ahead
By Dianne Anderson
Gregory Scott with the Orange County Community Action Partnership is out scouring some of the harder to reach areas to make sure that nonprofits and community agencies like his own are fully prepared to meet what’s coming down the pike.
Getting a true census headcount will enable him to continue to do what he does best every year over the next ten years – helping the community put more food on the table, and to keep the lights on.
Scott says this is an important time in history, and the count is very relevant to keep vital services going in the county.
“The census is 1,000% important to us because it is going to redirect funds for the next decade. Policies and public funds that come into our area are going to be greatly impacted by the census,” said Scott, President/CEO of Community Action Partnership of Orange County.
His role in the census count is to conduct more outreach with the senior population, focus on populations where English is not their first language, immigrants, the homeless and assistance for families that don’t have digital access.
“Our focus is on the hard to count, but it has everything to do with resources coming back to the community, especially during a time when people think that it’s Orange County, that there are no poor people in Orange County. That is not true,” he said.
OC CAP is part of a national network of about 1,000 CAP agencies nationwide, from programming that came of out the war and poverty during the civil rights movement. The organization has a large foodbank, three family resource centers offering energy and utility assistance, among many other vital services.
Once the pandemic hit, Scott said they refocused their resources toward meeting the immediate need of feeding the community, and feeding seniors. Typically, they were already serving about 24,000 seniors a month with food boxes, and working with 400 other nonprofits that they give food to in local communities.
Before Covid-19, he said they were feeding about 200,000 people every month, over one-fourth seniors and elderly. When Covid-19 called for shelter in place, many of their services have been modified, except for food as an essential service.
His numbers for food help have grown dramatically in recent weeks. They are passing out food through their family resource centers. They’re hosting mass distributions at the Santa Ana Main Street Mall. In mid-April, they served about 4,000 cars that came through. They were running low on volunteers, but he said the community has stepped up for service.
“We had a challenge getting food, so we started raising money to get food. We’re seeing a major uptick, about 4,000% increase in the number of people we’re serving,” he said.
At this point, the right census count is critically important since things have now changed so dramatically.
Funding for just the basic community services in light of so many businesses closing their doors and the rising unemployment rate means that post Covid-19 will be worse than pre-Covid19.
Food is the primary thing. One union association came out to volunteer, but they also needed food to take home to their own families.
“The union has over 90% unemployment rate just in our service area. Unemployment is going to be a major issue even when we go back to what we call normal,” he said.
Scott added that there is going to be more of a need for food and housing and other essential services than before. An accurate count can not be understated for the Orange County community.
From this census count, an estimated $675 billion each year, or more, will flow down nationally to support local programs and communities of color.
“We have a rising homeless population, our poverty rate is beginning to grow. Without the census, that narrative will not be told accurately,” he said.
For help with the Census questionnaire, call CAP OC at 714.907.1880 ext 4406 and 4409 or visit www.californiacensus.org.
To fill out the census online, see www.my2020census.gov