US Secretary of State Explains Why California is Spending $187 Million on the 2020 Census
Thursday, August 15, 2019
Ahead of the 2020 Census, California is spending nearly 95 times what it did a decade ago on outreach to encourage residents to participate, an indication of just how critical this count is for the Golden State.
And with the Trump Administration’s controversial and contentious — yet unsuccessful — bid to include a citizenship question on this year’s census, the stakes are even higher for states with large immigrant populations like California.
California loses around $2,000 a year in federal funding for each resident who goes uncounted in the census, Los Angeles County officials have estimated. In the 2010 census, more than 210,000 young children were uncounted, and the overall participation rate in California was 73%, down from 76% in 2010.
State officials are determined to ensure that doesn’t happen again in 2020. Gov. Gavin Newsom has charged Secretary of State Alex Padilla with leading the California Complete Count Committee, which is partnering with local organizations within small communities to increase participation in the census.
This news organization spoke with Secretary Padilla about the challenges for California in the 2020 census and the strategies that state officials are using to encourage a complete count. This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
Q: What’s on the line for California in the 2020 Census?
A: There’s huge stakes for the 2020 census for California. The population count determines federal funding formulas for the following 10 years, for areas of funding like critical infrastructure, healthcare, education, affordable housing, and more. Beyond that, census data determines what’s known as reapportionment in the House of Representatives. California has 53 representatives, our fair share determined 10 years ago. Could it still be 53? Could it drop to 52 or 51?
Q: How is the state changing its outreach strategies from the last census?
A: There was a small under-count in the 2010 census, especially an undercount of children or young people. Having learned from that experience that’s an important part of our messaging in 2020. Every person in the household should be counted: not just adults, not just citizens, not just immediate family. Everybody.
Q: What percent of California’s population is considered hard-to-count?
A: We know there are some populations designated as hard-to-count, either because they are communities of color, immigrants, young people, renters, rural residents, of lower income, or mobile residents like farmworkers and the homeless. More than 70% of Californians fit some sort of hard-to-count criteria.
Q: What is the state doing to ensure there’s not an undercount?
A: We’ve allocated around $187 million between last year and this year’s budgets to increase a variety of strategies to ensure every resident is counted, compared to around $2 million spent ahead of the 2010 census, when the state was in an economic crisis. We have a variety of strategies: a statewide public service announcement to regional community strategies. We have a lot of grants and contracts being awarded to community-based organizations throughout the state to do the work uniquely tailored for each region. Each community has its most influential voices at the local level. We’re in partnership with local leaders and local government to convey the message.
Q: For the first time, the 2020 Census will be online for many respondents. How is California ensuring that citizens without high-speed internet access are able to take the census online?
A: The 2020 Census will be the first digital-first census ever. Many of us remember a form in the mail 10 years ago. This year most Americans will first receive a postcard with instructions on how to go online to submit information. But frankly there’s still a digital divide in America, and California is no exception. There will be a phone opportunity to submit information, and there will be a paper form option, either by request or for households that don’t respond to the first few attempts by the census bureau.
Q: Some respondents might be reluctant to answer the census, despite the fact that a citizenship question won’t be appearing on the census, due to wariness about entrusting the government with personal data. How do you respond to concerns like those?
A: We will be working hard to remind everyone of the federal protections in place to ensure the privacy and confidentiality of the data. Here’s the bottom line: If people don’t participate in the census, Trump wins. If we are successful in counting every Californian, Trump loses. Existing federal laws prohibit personal information from being shared with other departments and agencies for other purposes. Even after the Census is done, California leaders will stay vigilant and we will apply any political, legislative, or legal pressure necessary to maintain privacy and confidentiality of the data submitted through the census.
Q: This news organization reported that some test census forms are being mailed out with a citizenship question included. What is your response?
A: It was a huge win when the Supreme Court decided that the 2020 Census won’t include a question about citizenship. We were aware that these test forms were going to go out throughout the country, half of them with a citizenship question, and half without. The tests were put in motion before the Supreme Court’s ruling, and would have been used to help us decide what outreach and education would be needed if the Supreme Court had held up the citizenship question. But it’s a good reminder that even after the 2020 Census is done, California leaders will stay vigilant and and will apply any political, legislative or legal pressure necessary to maintain the privacy and confidentiality of data submitted through the census.
Category: Economic News, Advocacy News