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With Census Deadline Moved Up, Local Organizations Race Against An Undercount

Employees at the Union of Pan-Asian Communities hand out food and census forms in City Heights on July 10, 2020.
Nicholas McVicker
Employees at the Union of Pan-Asian Communities hand out food and census forms in City Heights on July 10, 2020.

The U.S. Census Bureau will now end its counting efforts on Sept. 30, a month earlier than previously announced.

Originally, the count was supposed to end in July. But in April, the official census count was extended to Oct. 31, to help census-takers accommodate for social-distancing during the coronavirus pandemic.

With Census Deadline Moved Up, Local Organizations Race Against An Undercount
Listen to this story by Max Rivlin-Nadler.

On Monday, however, the Census Bureau announced that it would be cutting the counting a month short. Local organizations have been pushing for an accurate count to make sure federal funding gets to under-resourced areas. Now they’re redoubling their efforts to get the word out about the census.

“We still have a good foundation and have been putting in the work for quite a really long time, so hopefully our communities will deliver,” said Brenda Diaz, civic engagement coordinator at Mid-City CAN. Her organization has been spearheading census efforts in City Heights.

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Right now, that neighborhood's self-response rate is at 59.5%, with government census takers set to visit homes that haven’t responded yet starting next week.

On the whole, the county’s self-response rate is 68.9%, currently outpacing 2010’s self-response rate.

For Diaz, the stakes of an undercount, especially during a pandemic, couldn’t be higher.

“We’re talking about trillions of dollars, if our communities are not counted, trillions of dollars over the next 10 years, which we won’t have for health care, emergency services, education, even school meals for future generations,” she said.

The Census Bureau said it pushed the date back up to make sure all data collection is completed by the end of the year.

But Diaz, and other local groups working on census efforts in San Diego County, believe it's an effort to purposefully drive down participation in immigrant communities.

“We’re used to being disenfranchised and having to move fast and hopefully we’ll be able to make sure we get an accurate count,” she said.