Government / Politics

In-person outreach for U.S. Census expected to end one month early

Pandemic has limited local efforts to social media posts and phone calls.

Since the 2020 census began in April, the San Benito County Census Complete Count Committee has worked to make sure residents fill out the nationwide survey that will affect how funds are distributed for roads, schools, hospitals and more. But according to a recent NPR report, the U.S. Census Bureau is moving up its deadline for in-person outreach efforts by a month—from Oct. 31 to Sept. 30.

The report states the deadline change was confirmed by three Census Bureau employees who spoke on condition of anonymity “out of fear of losing their jobs.” It’s unclear if the self-response phase will remain the same, as the last week for self-response is Oct. 25-31 according to a July 20 release.

A July 30 release from the bureau states “We are currently evaluating our operations to enable the Census Bureau to provide this data in the most expeditious manner and when those plans have been finalized we will make an announcement.”  

A statement released by the California Complete Count Census Office the same day notes that “while there are no clear changes to USCB operational plans at this time, it is a clear reminder of the urgency of our task at hand. Our weeks of action will continue as planned, with the knowledge that timelines are still subject to change.”

Rigo Jimenez, education and justice associate director with Youth Alliance and local census committee coordinator, said he’s trying to figure out what’s going on, as confusion exists even with bureau employees. Jimenez and others led a caravan on June 27 through westside Hollister to encourage residents to respond to the census questionnaire. 

“The main thing that this set off in my head is that we have to work with the county to see if we could start doing some more in-person outreach efforts,” Jimenez said. “Just need to make sure that we are doing everything we can to make sure our events and activities have solid safety plans in place that are in alignment with what our county’s public health department has laid out for COVID-19.”

Having less time for community efforts to increase resident participation adds to the challenges the committee has faced during the shelter-in-place. 

“That is some bad news for sure because it’s already hard enough to get folks to complete the census during the pandemic with many of our outreach efforts having been reduced to social media posts and phone calls, as opposed to all the in-person activities we had planned back in March,” Jimenez said. “So to cut the time by a month is a blow for sure.”

The census officially began April 1 by mail, phone and online. According to the Census Bureau, each person not counted could mean a loss of $2,000 per year for the next 10 years for a county’s various agencies. With an estimated 61,537 residents, this involves more than $123 million in potential annual funding for San Benito County.

As of Aug. 3, San Benito County’s self-response rate was 65.4%, about 2% below the final self-response rate in 2010. San Benito County has a higher self-response rate than Monterey County (60.3%), Fresno County (62.9%) and Merced County (61.5%). Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties have the highest rates in the area with 72.3% and 67.2%, respectively. The state average is 64.1%.

San Benito County is separated into 11 tracts, or census geographical areas, of which Tract 2 and 8.02 have the lowest self-response rate with 56.8% as of July 27, according to data provided by Rene Anchieta, GIS analyst for San Benito County. Tract 2 covers the San Benito County side of Aromas, San Juan Bautista and Hollister Hills Vehicular Recreation Area. Tract 8.02 covers South County beginning south of Ridgemark. The highest response rate of 76.9% came from tract 8.01, which covers Ridgemark.

 

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Noe Magaña

Noe Magaña is a BenitoLink reporter. He also experiments with videography and photography. 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 also was a reporter and later a copy editor for San Jose State's Spartan Daily.