SANTA CRUZ, Calif. - U.S. census officials say the Bay Area leads the state in the percentage of respondents to the 2020 census. Even so, Many communities are at a 60% response rate or lower, and seek to do better.
In Santa Cruz, a rolling caravan Friday afternoon is calling on community members to step up and be counted. Three dozen participants from various groups, made a five mile loop through the Beach Flats and Downtown neighborhoods. They’re hoping to sway the skeptical and shy that the U.S. Census is worth their time.
“It means money for the local community. Every person who doesn’t fill it out, will lose about $1,500 every year for the next 10 years,” said Jason Hoppin, a spokesman for Santa Cruz County.
Each decade, the U.S. Constitution requires a national headcount. The results determine federal funding and congressional representation, provided residents respond accurately to the questionnaire.
“The census is safe, easy, it’s important. We do not share your information in a way that it can be traced back to you,” said Donald Bendz, a spokesman for the U.S. Census Bureau.
But there’s been renewed controversy this month, after President Donald Trump penned a memorandum seeking to exclude undocumented residents.
“For me, this is a very personal issue. I have friends who are undocumented. I have classmates who are undocumented. There are members of my extended family who are undocumented,” said Mayor Sam Liccardo, (D) San Jose.
Liccardo is a named plaintiff in a lawsuit that seeks to block the president’s action.
“The constitution is unequivocal. It says that all persons should be counted. It does not distinguish between documented residents. Undocumented. U-S residents. It says persons,’” he said. Added Bendz, “I can’t speak to any actions of the executive branch. All I can say is at the census bureau, we are committed to getting a complete and accurate count.”
California’s census response rate is slight above the national average of 62%. The Bay Area is well beyond that, but advocates are canvassing areas, and have set-up census kiosks inside pop-up Covid testing sites, to make sure everyone is counted.
“The pop up sites are a great place to find people in the community who are already there doing their civic duty being safe. And so … right then and there,” said Miguel Santiago, the community outreach manager for the Santa Clara County Office of the Census.
Outreach ambassadors hope to increase response rates ahead of August 11, when workers from the Census Bureau will begin canvassing the entire country, knocking on doors to get responses.