Assembly

Census: Time to be Counted

By Assemblymember Phil Ting

We are living in unprecedented times. The Bay Area’s stay-at-home order is necessary to slow the spread of COVID-19, which threatens the health and well-being of our communities – not to mention our economy. Please comply with this directive.

While you are homebound, please note the 2020 Census is here. Once a decade, the federal government attempts to count every person living in the country. Basic demographic data is collected for each person currently living in a household, such as gender, age and race. 

It’s important to note that while the Trump administration wanted to add immigration status to the census form, the citizenship question will NOT be asked. Additionally, I want to assure you that the information you give to the Census Bureau is safe and kept confidential from entities such as immigration authorities, law enforcement and code enforcement. For example, if your landlord thinks two people are living in your apartment, but four actually do, please indicate four people on your questionnaire.

Your participation in the census is crucial because population size determines our state’s number of representatives in Congress and its share of federal funding. California alone receives more than $170 billion in population-based funding from Washington D.C. for Medicare and Medi-Cal, education, housing and transportation, among other programs. For every person who doesn’t respond to the census, we lose a part of that money. Our voice could also be reduced in Congress; an undercount could mean that we lose one of our 53 members of the House of Representatives.

By the time you read this, your household should have received an invitation in the mail to participate in the census. This is the first census that emphasizes replying online, so you don’t have to wait for the hard copy form to arrive in your mailbox starting in mid-April. Since the online method is easy to do while we are ordered to stay home, take a moment now to go to 2020census.gov and complete the questionnaire there. Your unique census ID is on the invitation you’ve already received. On the questionnaire, please count yourself at the place where you would normally be living as of April 1; for example, any college student who would normally be in classes as of April 1 but who is back home due to the COVID-19 outbreak needs to fill out the questionnaire as if they were still living at their school. For questions or to give your responses over the phone, call (844) 330-2020. 

More than 29 million, or 72%, of our state’s residents are vulnerable to undercounting because they belong to communities that have been historically the hardest to count, including renters, immigrants and communities of color. For example, more than a million people of Chinese descent live in California; the community has historically been undercounted because of language barriers and the fear of information being shared with immigration authorities.

With so much at stake, as chair of the Assembly Budget Committee, I helped secure $187 million in our state budget to help ensure our count is complete and accurate. The funding aims to boost response rates through targeted outreach campaigns with local nonprofits and community leaders. The state is providing materials for the top 12 languages spoken in California besides English: Spanish, Chinese (Cantonese and Mandarin), Vietnamese, Tagalog, Korean, Armenian, Farsi, Arabic, Russian, Japanese, Punjabi and Khmer.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the “self-response phase” of reporting online or via phone or mail has been extended to August 14: census takers will follow-up with visits to unresponsive households beginning in May and continuing through August. The final report is due to the president and Congress in December.

According to the Public Policy Institute of California, we could miss more than 1.6 million residents. The consequences of low participation in the census are real, and your cooperation is essential. Let’s rise up and be counted for the 2020 Census. California has a lot riding on it.

Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) represents the 19th Assembly District, which includes the west side of San Francisco along with the communities of Broadmoor, Colma and Daly City. He can be reached at (415) 557-2312 or at assemblymember.ting@assembly.ca.gov. For more information and updates, visit https://a19.asmdc.org.

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