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COVID-19 Relief Efforts Offer Census Organizers An Opportunity To Safely Canvass

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 health and economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic will be felt for years to come, especially among low-income and immigrant communities.

That’s why local organizations are working to make sure that this year’s census count includes everyone, to make sure that federal resources find their way to these communities.

On Friday in City Heights, the young employees of the Neighborhood Cafe at the Union of Pan Asian Communities (UPAC) handed out food and census information to people in need of being fed and counted.

UPAC's Dante Dauz helped put together Friday's event, which handed out food to 185 families.

“Obviously when a crisis occurs, it’s important that our community is informed as much as possible,” he said. “This is an opportunity to provide that information, one of the critical pieces is census information. All of our staff were born and raised in this community, so it’s a perfect match.”

RELATED: For City Heights, The Path To Power Runs Through The Ballot And The Census

Local census organizers say San Diego County is so far slightly behind its 2010 response rate, making the next few months critical for San Diego’s census efforts. Local participation in the census, as of July 7, is at 67.6%. Their goal is to achieve at least a 70% response rate, building on the 68% response rate from 2010.

Organizers are battling two headwinds when trying to promote census participation — the barriers the pandemic has placed on local canvassing, and fears that the Trump administration will use information from the census to target immigrant communities.

“This is our job as an activist, organizer and trusted messenger to make clear that sensitive information will not be shared to other government agencies,” said Jean-Huy Tran with the group Viet Vote. “Citizenship is not going to be asked, and by law, it’s going to be confidential.”

The event came at the tail end of the county’s “Count Me 2020 Week of Action,” which has tied several COVID-19 relief efforts to promoting participation in the census.