March 12, 2019 | Stories

Every Person Counts in 2020

Every Person Counts in 2020

"Think about the Census as giving back to the community." — Jaime De La Cruz, County Supervisor, District 5

Community Foundation’s across the nation are working with other nonprofit organizations to ensure an accurate Census count in 2020, an activity conducted by the US Census Bureau every ten years. Census data helps to allocate funding, define services, and promote economic growth.

We need to advocate and educate to ensure a complete picture for San Benito County in 2020, so the county held their first Census Committee meeting last month. The Community Foundation for San Benito County was one of several nonprofit organizations who attended. Dulce Alonso, a Management Analyst for the county, led the discussion along with Tory Del Favero, Partnership Specialist, with the US Census Bureau.

Robert Rivas kicked off the meeting with his view of the Census, “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 meetings like this and  education of our community before answering the questionnaire.

The Census Bureau does not share individual data with anyone for 72 years–not Immigration and Customs Enforcement, not property owners, not local police, or any other government agency. Penalties for wrongful disclosure includes 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).

Every Person Counts!

Annual distribution of $675 billion among state, local and tribal government programs throughout the United States depends on data from the Census. 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 will lose $20,000 during the ten years between census poles. San Benito County is working to determine which populations in our community are the hardest to count and what steps to take to make the task easier on April 1, 2020.

One of the 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 elsewhere. 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 1st, 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 reports 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 account.

Beginning in March of 2020, the Census will be available online in 12 different languages. 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.

Everyone in San Benito County matters—each person makes a significant impact in total funding, regardless of his or her citizenship. Nonprofits need to educate their members, clients, and parishioners; property owners need to meet with their tenants; farmers need to converse with their laborers. You can help by sharing this information and talking with others.