Efforts have been ramping up across East Contra Costa County to make sure residents will know what to expect with the coming 2020 U.S. Census.
The census count, which takes place every 10 years in the United States, determines the number of seats a state has in the U.S. House of Representatives, and is used to draw district lines and determine federal and state funding. According to a George Washington University study, California and local governments lose $2,000 for each person not counted.
While the census count is the responsibility of the U.S. Census Bureau and the federal government, Contra Costa County promotes it. It is vital to get an accurate count of how many people live in the county, District 3 Supervisor and Contra Costa County Census Committee Chair Diane Burgis says, not only to maintain funding and representation, but also to know the composition of the people who live here.
“It’s a way of acknowledging and celebrating diversity,” Burgis said.
While the county has grown throughout the past decade, some reports estimate California’s population as a whole has decreased, meaning the state could lose a seat in the House of Representatives.
“I want to make sure we don’t lose any representation we don’t need to lose in Contra Costa County,” Burgis said.
Contra Costa County faces certain challenges in its census count, chief of which are its hard-to-count community members, many of whom fall into one or more demographics: children 5 and under, students, people for whom English is not their first language, seniors, veterans, people who live in areas not zoned as residential, college students, those mistrustful of government, the homeless and more.
Burgis says census officials are taking extra efforts to ensure these individuals are counted, including issuing grants to schools, public agencies and tax-exempt organizations that can help.
“The challenge is to locate them ... to make sure they can trust the process,” she said. “We’re relying on trusted partners to get the word out.”
Some partners Contra Costa County is entrusting to help include local organizations that have experience working with these hard-to-count community members, one of which is You, Me, We, Oakley! (YMWO)
According to Program Director Gaby Banos, YMWO is a “grant-funded, cross-sector, collaborative program whose mission is to build community and increase civic participation.” Its program participates with school districts, city council, police and community organizations.
Banos and YMWO hope to dispel misinformation about the census within East County, reaching out to its community partners and those they work with to help guarantee a complete, accurate count.
“Recognizing the need to ensure all residents are counted, we felt uniquely positioned through our existing network to do effective outreach to the community,” Banos said. “The grant is for outreach with our hard-to-count communities ... We are confident that we can empower community members by simply providing clarification and answering questions. We plan to broaden outreach through schools, community organizations, congregations and existing YMWO events, such as our quarterly citizenship drives or the Congreso Familiar Conference. We’ve already begun meeting with YMWO volunteers that will assist with outreach in Spanish, by tabling at events and offering presentations at existing meeting spaces. Some of those strategies will include presenting at existing conferences, community meetings and businesses that are frequented by hard-to-count communities.”
For anyone hosting a community event between now and May who would be interested in having Banos and YMWO present, contact her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 925-625-7011.
Census forms — which can be filled out online, via phone, by paper or in person — include 10 questions about an individual’s age, gender, race and relationship to the householder. Residents will start receiving forms in the mail in mid-March.
U.S. Census Bureau officials remind everyone that all data collected will remain confidential and cannot be turned over to any other government agency, immigration enforcement or the president.
To view a sample of the Census 2020 form, visit www.bit.ly/census2020sample.