Thirty more days. September 30 is the last day to complete your Census 2020 questionnaire, the federal government’s decennial count of every person living in the United States. The fifth line in the U.S. Constitution refers to the census and every person’s right to be counted. It’s not too late to participate and make yourself count! To complete your census form online, by phone or mail, visit: www.2020census.gov
Census data touches nearly every aspect of our lives, like funding for health care, schools, transportation and much more. New research suggests that more than $1.5 trillion is allocated annually to state and local governments, businesses, nonprofits and households based on census data. Census data is also used for reapportionment of Congressional representation and state redistricting. If California is not fully counted, we risk losing a seat in the House of Representatives. The importance of the Census cannot be underestimated — yet many in our communities have still not completed their forms.
Knowing the stakes were high for the 2020 Census and that the count would impact all areas of our work to help our communities, SVCF began our census initiative in 2017. From our past census work, we knew starting early was crucial.
We began the census marathon with early support for the Local Update of Census Addresses (LUCA) process. LUCA is a critical process that takes places two years before the census is launched to ensure that the U.S. Census Bureau has an accurate mailing list to invite residents to participate in the census. SVCF provided grants to nonprofits throughout San Mateo and Santa Clara counties that used new technology to identify and canvass communities with high levels of unconventional housing and housing that could potentially be missed, such as garages, in-law units and RVs.
This is the third census that I have worked on and by far the most challenging. The U.S. Census Bureau has fewer resources and funding to conduct this year’s count compared to 2010. This federal administration has also been relentless in its anti-immigrant policies and attempted to add a citizenship question to the census form, which we knew would deter millions of people from participating.
The battle to save the integrity of the census made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court. SVCF signed the amicus brief for Department of Commerce v. New York and shared the importance of how we use census data and how the addition of this question would reduce participation. We and the other amicus parties prevailed, and the question was not added to the census questionnaire.
Although it was a win, we still knew that community members were fearful of participating in the census. With these challenges and the sheer increase of hard-to-count populations since 2010, we worked closely with our regional partners in philanthropy to raise funds that could provide more grants to the trusted nonprofits that work with the community. SVCF took the lead in hosting an online portal, streamlining the application process for nonprofits throughout the nine Bay Area counties. We collaborated with our local and state government partners, the U.S. Census Bureau and United Way Bay Area — our regional nonprofit partner that administers state census funding — so we could be coordinated in our efforts.
Along with our regional partners, SVCF provided more than $3 million in grants, along with training and support, to nonprofit organizations to conduct census outreach.
Our nonprofit partners started their outreach efforts early in 2019. When the global pandemic hit in 2020, they changed their tactics. Many had plans for events and door-to-door canvassing, which they had to pause due to public health orders. Instead, they did things like delivering the census message when doing essential food deliveries at homes, modifying their services to curbside events with census questionnaire assistance and increasing phone banking to reach households.
We are proud of the work that our partners have accomplished. San Mateo and Santa Clara counties alone have exceeded their self-response rates from 2010 and are 10 percentage points higher than the national response rate, which is a tremendous accomplishment.
We are in the home stretch, but our work is not yet complete. Approximately 25% of our community still has not participated in the census. Today, we can’t just be satisfied with just completing our own census forms. We also need to think about those in our community who might be at risk for not being counted – an elderly neighbor who might not be computer savvy, a friend who is undocumented and scared of government or a family fearful of eviction that is living in an overcrowded apartment. I challenge each of us to take a moment to see how we can help the people in our lives who still have not been counted.
Completing the census is one fast and simple thing we can do right now to shape a better future!
Let’s end this race strong.
To complete your census form online, by phone or mail, visit: www.2020census.gov
Learn about SVCF’s 2020 Census work: www.siliconvalleycf.org/census2020