Business / Economy

Confidentiality still a concern among Census 2020 steering committee

Census Bureau specialists assure residents of the survey’s safety and emphasize its importance.
Census Bureau specialist Tory Del Favero presents during the first committee meeting on Feb. 21. File photo by Noe Magaña.
Census Bureau specialist Tory Del Favero presents during the first committee meeting on Feb. 21. File photo by Noe Magaña.

With the 2020 Census fast approaching, the confidentiality of the survey remained a major concern at the Census 2020 Steering Committee meeting on Aug. 29 at the Veterans Memorial Building in Hollister.

U.S. Census Bureau partnership specialists Christina Granados and Tory Del Favero gave a presentation on the importance of the nationwide population count, and said that it’s safe and easy to respond to.

“Our political climate has created a lot of fear for a lot of people and it’s real and it’s valid,” Del Favero said. “And I by no means want to take away from the emotions people are having towards the federal government right now. But we do need to highlight that is safe.”

Del Favero said that the information gathered by the bureau, such as names and addresses, is “pretty much public” because people share it when they receive services. However, that information is reported as aggregate data and can’t identify individuals, she said.

“We want to show what this country is made up of,” Del Favero said. “We want to know people’s origins. We want to know how they are related to people in that house. We want to know how many same sex marriages are in the country. We want to know how many grandparents are living with grandkids because that is going to help shape the money that comes back to the community.”

As Census Bureau staff has done in past meetings and presentations, Del Favero said that Title 13 prohibits any information from being shared with other agencies. Violators face up to five years in prison and/or a fine of up to $250,000 if prosecuted. 

Saying he was “ambivalent” about allowing Hollister School District Superintendent Diego Ochoa to volunteer on the census committee, Hollister School District Board President Stephen Kain voiced his support for schools working to help with the census.

“I’m here because I want our schools to help with this,” Kain said at the committee meeting. “I have a lot of ideas that we could do.”

His concern, however, was breaking the trust between schools and the community if there was a breach of information.

Both Granados and Amy McElroy, senior field representative for State Assemblyman Robert Rivas, assured Kain of the confidentiality of census data. While Granados echoed Del Favero’s message that the information being gathered was mostly public and that the census did not ask for social security or financial information, McElroy said it was about language that is used to assure residents that it is safe to be counted in the census. 

Del Favero also assured Kain that based on the census, no one can find out where a particular person lives.

“The ramifications of not filling out the census are so monumental . . . it is too big of a risk not to do it.”

Youth Alliance Executive Director Diane Ortiz also spoke about the importance of using specific language to ease the concerns of the immigrant community regarding the census and suggested creating a subcommittee to figure out how to convey the message. 

Granados said the best thing the steering committee can do is present the facts to the community and empower them to make smart choices, which includes explaining Title 13 and how the census affects the education system.

“We need to be able to explain that it’s not a pinky swear,” Granados said. “That since Title 13 has been enacted, there has never been a breach of census data.”


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Noe Magaña

Noe Magaña is BenitoLink Co-Editor and Content Manager. He joined BenitoLink as reporter intern and was soon brought on staff as a BenitoLink reporter. He also experiments with videography and photography. He is a San Benito High School alumnus with a bachelor's in journalism from San Jose State and a Liberal Arts Associate's Degree from Gavilan College. Noe also attended San Jose City College and was the managing editor for the City College Times, the school's newspaper. He was a reporter and later a copy editor for San Jose State's Spartan Daily. He is a USC Center for Health Journalism 2020 California Fellow.