Community leaders and representing more than 150 nonprofits and municipalities who are members of the non-partisan Count Me 2020 Coalition are set to activate a “Week of Action” July 6-10 to encourage individuals to respond to the Census who live and work in neighborhoods that currently have a low Census response rate.
The stay-at-home orders during the COVID-19 pandemic forced many members of the Count Me 2020 Coalition to adjust not only their mission-centric operations but also their planned Census outreach efforts in the community. As time went on, community leaders determined it was important to provide a rapid response to essential services and programs, while at the same time continue to encourage Census participation while delivering meals to seniors, distributing emergency boxes of food and staples, and performing other acts of compassion to help neighbors in need.
Their efforts have paid off. As of June 25, there is a 67.4% self-response rate for the 2020 Census in San Diego County, which is higher than the current California response rate of 62.8%. But there are still neighborhoods that need a more intense focus on Census education and promotion. Count Me 2020 Coalition’s Week of Action aims to increase the 2020 Census self-response rate to at least 68.2%, which was the final 2010 Census response rate for San Diego County, and then keep the momentum going to achieve a full population count by the end of the Census response period, which is Oct. 31, 2020.
“The COVID-19 pandemic reminded us how crucial an accurate count is when it comes to the 2020 Census,” says Herminia Ledesma, program manager at Vista Community Clinic. “Being counted in the Census tells everyone who we are and where we are, so our community gets the resources we deserve. Local municipalities and health care providers need to know how many people are living in our communities to better prepare for emergency services.
“Census data also informs how billions of dollars in federal funding impacts the lives of every Californian for key programs such as Head Start, childcare and development programs, community mental health programs, nutritional programs and many more programs that will continue to see an increase in the amount of people that need assistance especially as we manage the economic and health effects of COVID-19 in our region.”
Although the City of San Diego’s Census response rate is ranked second nationwide in cities with populations of more than 1 million, there are still some neighborhoods and other cities in our region with extremely low participation rates. Count Me 2020 officials can access Census response rate data down to a neighborhood block area, called Census tracts.
The following communities are at risk of not being fully counted: Oceanside – Camp Pendleton; Escondido; in the City of San Diego: Normal Heights, Barrio Logan, Sherman Heights, Logan Heights, City Heights, Downtown/San Diego City College; National City; Otay Mesa; Lemon Grove/La Presa; Chula Vista; Unincorporated areas in San Diego County: El Cajon, Campo/Morena Village/Jacumba/Boulevard, Santa Ysabel/Warner Springs.
Additional communities also include the Pala, Pauma, and La Jolla Reservations.
California, and the San Diego region in particular faces a number of unique challenges to ensure a complete Census count which include, but are not limited to the diversity of our population, trans-border identities, language barriers, computer literacy, limited broadband connection, and a distrust in the federal government. Count Me 2020 leaders take into account these and other nuances to create effective outreach strategies to encourage populations identified by the State of California as “hard to count” to respond to the 2020 Census.
Various outreach tactics are planned across the Week of Action and will be implemented by Count Me 2020 Coalition members and municipal agencies, to bring the community together in a safe and responsible way to build connection and solidarity. Activities include virtual/online town halls, social media “thunderclaps,” and neighbors calling neighbors, a phone-banking effort to make personal connections and conduct conversations with friends and family members to complete the 2020 Census. Organizers also intend to host car caravans in various neighborhoods in a safe, physically distant manner. The vehicles will be colorfully decorated with posters and banners, and caravan participants will encourage onlookers to visit the Census website to respond from their smartphone and tablets, call to respond via phone, or to mail in their Census form. The caravans will have a parked “car rally” so people can complete the Census by smartphone and can also ask questions from trusted community members. (Schedule and activities are subject to change.)
“We have made tremendous strides in the past few months despite the known obstacles of participation among groups identified as ‘hard-to-count,’ and the additional challenges presented by COVID-19. But collectively, we have our eyes on the finish line to complete our work,” says Griselda Ramirez, director of civic engagement at Mid-City CAN. “The deadline to respond to the 2020 Census is October 31, but it is important to self-respond immediately, so a Census worker will not visit your residence to interview you in person.” Enumerator visits are scheduled to begin August 11, but the schedule is subject to change to protect the health and safety of the public and Census Bureau employees.
A full schedule of events for the Count Me 2020 Coalition’s Week of Action will be shared on their social media channels and on their website, countme2020.org.
To complete the 2020 Census visit my2020census.gov/ or call the U.S. Census Bureau, where specific hotline numbers have been established for preferred in-language response over the phone. A full list of these phone numbers is available on the Count Me 2020 website. The questionnaire takes less than 10 minutes to complete, and responses are protected by law and cannot be shared with, or used by, any governmental agencies.