Every 10 years, the federal government attempts to get an accurate count of every person in the nation. The 2020 Census will be the first to offer the opportunity to fill out the survey online. Accuracy is critical, not just because the census determines the number of seats each state has in the House of Representatives, but because it will establish how much each community receives for government agencies, schools and hospitals.
The count began April 1, and San Benito County census officials are encouraging everyone to take part because they say every person not counted equals a loss of $2,000 per year to local schools. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the total county population is over 60,310. If each resident were counted, it could amount to as much as $120.6 million annually for San Benito County over the next 10 years.
This funding goes toward school services and programs such as special education, Head Start, after-school programs, classroom technology, food assistance, and maternal and child health programs. Additionally, it is important to count youth, including those under the age of five. When young children are not included in the count, funding support for health insurance, hospitals, child care, food assistance, schools, and early childhood development can be reduced.
Hollister School District Superintendent Diego Ochoa has worked with local census officials, city and county representatives, and the Hollister-based nonprofit Youth Alliance, which has taken a leading role with the census. Prior to the shelter-in-place order, Ochoa said the school district sent its nearly 6,000 students home with flyers in English and Spanish promoting participation in the census.
“It’s all about educating every parent and resident about why the census is important,” he said.
For parents fearful of participating, Ochoa said the process is protected by law and the census guarantees that their information is not shared with other government agencies.
“We hope through the trusting relationships we have built with our parents and our community members it will help convince them of the importance in participating in the census,” Ochoa said. “If people are undercounted it reduces the number of people thought to live in the community, thereby reducing the amount of money available.”
Krystal Lomanto, superintendent of the San Benito County Office of Education, said the office has partnered with the Monterey County Office of Education to remind families about the importance of the census.
In an informal BenitoLink poll on Facebook, Gavilan College Trustee Irma Gonzalez said, “Undercounting of children will result in the loss of proper state and federal funding.” She added that students from diverse socioeconomic and demographic backgrounds, as well as first-generation students, have the greatest potential to be impacted.
“San Benito County is already struggling economically and can ill-afford to lose funding because we undercount,” she said.