This article was contributed by Gary Byrne, president and CEO of the Community Foundation for San Benito County.
The countdown to the 2020 Census has begun! The San Benito County Complete Count Committee is now planning their education and outreach efforts leading up to April 1, 2020.
The State of California has proposed a $154.3 million investment to bolster a statewide outreach campaign for the 2020 Census, an activity conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau every ten years. Census data helps to allocate funding, define services, and promote economic growth.
The distribution of this funding is being conducted throughout the state by Community Foundations, who will then pass the money along to nonprofits working collaboratively with Complete Count Committees. The Community Foundation for San Benito County received a grant for $30,000 to be used in the community to help reach the most difficult to count populations.
The San Benito County Complete Count Committee supports hard-to-count efforts and has been meeting since mid-March when Assemblyman Robert Rivas shared his view: “Here in San Benito County, we are resource poor. We are not getting our fair share of state and federal funding because San Benito County is systematically and historically undercounted. Trying to reach the hard to count population is critical, and we need to take an integrated approach to be sure we count everyone.” The solution begins with committees like this and the education of our community before answering the questionnaire.
One of our most difficult populations to count are migrant workers (seasonal and unable to return to a permanent home within the same day). Laborers typically leave San Benito County by the end of March to work in a warmer climate, and although we provide services for 150 days, San Benito County does not receive funding. In 2002, 238 farms in San Benito County reported 2,483 workers who were here less than 150 days. When these individuals leave San Benito County before April 1, our county loses more than $49 million in funding for the next ten years.
The homeless population receives critical services throughout the year, but their numbers can be hard to count. The 2017 Homeless Census & Survey reported 527 homeless individuals, but only 23% are living in shelters. Since 2017, San Benito County has increased the number of beds available to the homeless population, and this will help make the count easier, but enumerators will still be required to travel out into the community during early morning hours to achieve a more accurate count.
Be Counted in 2020
Census Day is April 1, 2020. The questionnaire will be available online in 12 different languages, and participation is required; however, answering every question is not required to be counted. As of this writing, the Supreme Court has not decided on the legality of the question, “Is this person a citizen of the United States?” Responders may also complete the census using the telephone with a choice of 59 languages. Some households will receive a reminder postcard or questionnaire, and enumerators will visit homes that are remiss in completing the census.
Data collected from the count affects the annual distribution of $675 billion among state, local and tribal government programs throughout the United States. These programs include transportation, job training, schools (grants, lunch programs, etc.), senior and foster care, housing (Section 8), and medical assistance. California will receive approximately $76 billion annually for ten years, and San Benito County wants its fair share of the pie. For every person not counted, San Benito County is expected to lose $20,000 during the ten years between census poles.
It is also important to remember that the sharing of census data with anyone is illegal–not with landlords, not with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, not with local police, and not with any other government agency. Penalties for wrongful disclosure include up to five years imprisonment and or a fine of $250,000. On the other hand, the Bureau does share statistical data compiled from individual data (i.e., a population with totals for different age groups, ethnicity, and special needs).
Everyone in San Benito County matters–each person makes a significant impact in total funding received for services in our community, regardless of his or her citizenship. We all need to do our part and spread the word about the 2020 Census. Nonprofits need to educate their members, clients, and parishioners, property owners need to meet with their tenants, and farmers need to converse with their laborers. You can help by sharing this information and talking with others.
If you would like to obtain a job as an enumerator for the 2020 Census, more information is available here.
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