Census In High Gear Now
By Dianne Anderson
Since the pandemic and in the aftermath to come, census outreach workers say it’s crucial to make sure the minimal $675 billion to $1.5 trillion a year in funding gets to areas where it’s needed.
A recent Census Household Pulse survey shows nearly half of Americans have lost income due to coronavirus.
Others in low-income communities of color are dealing with an astounding level of health impacts and food insecurity. Outreach workers are trying to be as safe as possible while encouraging the community to respond online to the questionnaire.
“We have a lot of folks making phone calls and text messages. We call again and again to contact folks to talk about how are they doing? Do they need resources? Are their families okay?” said Sky Allen, a census coordinator with the Inland Empowerment, a coalition of community organizations to increase civic participation.
Her top strategies include phone banking, texting, social media, but with a special focus on pushing resources and food out to the community.
There is still some time in the weeks ahead for census outreach. Their ACBO (Administrative Community Based Organization) region will soon see another batch of contracts giving organizations more money to continue outreach until the end of August or September.
By Halloween, the census is expected to take a more direct approach with enumerators going out door knocking.
“We still have more up our sleeves in trying to get as many people to self respond as possible,” she said. “Victorville has responded at 59%, and has been fairly well. San Bernardino not as well, but they’re at 55%, and are not far off.”
Kisha Collier said that her nonprofit program is trying to draw folks’ attention to the census count as essential to sustaining local money flow over the next ten years, especially due to Covid-19.
At this point, the Community Health Action Network has reached over 15,000 homes and the numbers are still trending upward.
“Resiliency has helped, and being able to respond to COVID and transition from ‘feet to the street’ outreach to virtual and remote and webinars and other social media platforms,” said Collier, CHAN program director.
Being sensitive in the outreach is important because the census is probably the last thing on the collective mind right now, she said.
“They are concerned about food or housing or shelter, being compassionate and empathetic to those concerns,” she said.
Her nonprofit also gives out supplemental food while leveraging the distribution of flyers about the census, she said. She is reminding the community that the census ensures representation in the House of Representatives, and emphasizes the need to complete the task at hand.
In their calls to connect with the community, they highlight how the benefits the community is seeing now, the resources, funding, stimulus checks, and the unemployment extension, were all the result of census data.
“That’s another indicator of why it’s important for us as a community to get a complete count in the High Desert region,” she said.
In Orange County, Alison Edwards, CEO of OC Human Relations, has been watching long wraparound lines of families driving to school every day to pick up lunch for basic nutrition. It’s another example of how that census count impacts local money for services.
“The same things that the census is designed to calculate for our funding, are the very things that are keeping us afloat as a community right now and will be so important as we move forward and attempt to recover from the high rates of unemployment, etcetera,” she said.
Compared to statewide peers, she said Orange County seems to be doing well on filling out the forms, and is at the fourth highest in terms of reporting. But adds that they expected a stronger response because almost everyone is working from home.
“It is kind of counterintuitive. There was hope that everyone’s home, and maybe they’ll fill out the census. It’s really challenging to educate folks on doing it,” she said.
She said many people aren’t aware of all the services the census data covers.
Adriana Valencia Wences, census program coordinator with Long Beach Forward, said the crisis has impacted their ability for direct outreach, particularly since the census form went live on March 12, the same day that L.A. County recognized the pandemic as an emergency.
But they are working around the constraints.
Members of their We Count Long Beach has shifted to creative ways to get community counted while practicing social distancing. They also use text and phone banking, and share educational resources through social media.
Recently, they collaborated with partners on a promotional car caravan through the Washington Neighborhood, a dense area with a low response rate. Another event is planned for June 1 in the blocks surrounding St. Mary’s Medical Center.
The hope is to spark more conversations around the census.
“Despite the crisis, the community leaders that we work with have been consistently energetic about getting their neighbors counted and it has been so inspiring to continue this work despite the general media’s focus on COVID-19,” she said.
As of May 18, she said the city of Long Beach has a 60% self-response rate which is almost at the state level of 60.7%.
They are striving to go higher until the very end, she said, “It’s been strange not being able to connect with people in-person but digital spaces and caravans have really helped get around that challenge COVID-19 has presented while practicing safe social distancing.”
Most people have been receptive to the 2020 Census, she said, adding that they understand what’s at stake over the next ten years.
“Responding to the census is more important than ever since this COVID-19 crisis started. It’s especially important for our community to get access to the right funding and resources that the census provides,” she said.
To respond to the census online, see
https://census.ca.gov Or call 844-330-2020
For Inland Empire resources, see
For Orange County resources,
For Long Beach resources, https://www.lbforward.org