Census: Do it Now
By Dianne Anderson
Billions and billions of dollars that could support communities and people of color may not come down unless more Black and Brown people fill out the Census forms or answer the knock at the door.
And make it fast.
The clock is ticking under a recently announced tighter deadline. The U.S. Census Bureau is ready to shut down the count on September 30.
A shortage of time and a shortage of enumerators have advocates worried about what the short headcount means for the community.
Kisha Collier, program director of the Community Health Action Network, said that they already got their funding to administer their grant, but it’s sad to see the early shutdown because it takes away so much potential money and resources from communities of color.
At last count through August 20, the Census reports the cumulative 2020 Self-Response Rate is at 62.3 for San Bernardino County, which is 3.1 percentage points below 2010.
Closing the Census early is the opposite of what she expected. She doesn’t want to see the community get left out, again.
“If we did nothing else for outreach today, we would have fulfilled our commitment to our contract. This is our organization sharing the passion that we have to a complete count, it’s about advocating for our community.”
Collier is juggling more than the census to try to draw attention to the count up to the last minute. She helps get assists with the form whiles she’s out distributing food, providing with utility assistance, or giving away gift cards.
Black and Brown communities are hardest to get at a real headcount, but without it, they will not be able to get the money needed to maintain important local health and welfare services.
She was creative, handing out census forms to get people signed up whenever they went out distributing food. She streeses the importance of the accurate count, especially with the lingering COVID impact.
A lot hinges on how funding comes down to the Black community.
“Those resources can be funneled back to our community for healthcare, rental assistance, mortgage assistance and small business resources. The census data relate to a moment in time, and these resources that we’re receiving are a direct result of census data,” she said.
With just a small window of time remaining, she is trying to reach as many as she can.
Trained CHAN staff work with customers to complete the census survey. They also push social media, consistent updates and promo events. The community can call if they need emergency assistance, but they prefer to have everyone come at the same time to the planned distributions.
“If it’s virtual, we are online on Facebook, and Zoom streaming live, we are going to where the community goes, central locations food distribution, utility assistance, or additional resources. We always offer an opportunity to complete the census on the spot,” she said.
An accurate Census headcount is also tightly tied to redistricting and reapportionment, which determines whether a state gains or loses a congressional seat.
That’s also part of the concern in a recent lawsuit blasting the Census “rush plan” as a political ploy by the Trump Administration to stop funding and resources from coming down to communities of color.
Mike Feuer, Los Angeles City Attorney, said the rush plan to end the census early is unconstitutional amid the pandemic.
The complaint names numerous advocates as plaintiffs, including the League of Women Voters of the United States, the National Urban League, Black Alliance for Immigration, Harris County, TX, and the City of Los Angeles, City of Salinas, City of San Jose, and Commissioners Rodney Ellis and Adrian Garcia of the Harris County Commissioners Court.
“The Trump administration’s order shortening the time to complete the Census from October 31 to September 30th is yet another of this administration’s rogue and racist decisions intended to deprive Black communities of resources and execute a redistricting scheme that supports and perpetuates white supremacy,” said Nana Gyamfi, Executive Director, Black Alliance for Just Immigration.
“The extension was granted in recognition of COVID-19 and its impact on outreach and capacity to get an accurate count. This manipulative order to shorten the time will result in a significant undercount of Black folks, including Black immigrants. We will continue to make sure our community members are counted in the census even as we oppose this latest attack by this administration,” she adds.
To see the Census Rush Plan complaint:
To complete the form online, https://census.ca.gov
For those that do not want to answer the door, call CHAN for help at 760.241.9900