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City Heights Organizers Fear Undercount After Supreme Court Orders Census Count Halted

Employees at the Union of Pan-Asian Communities hand out food and census form...

Photo by Nicholas McVicker

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

For months, local census organizers have been racing against the clock to make sure everyone gets counted in this year’s census. They wanted to reach the hard-to-count populations, like the homeless and people in the country illegally. They thought they had until October 31st, but now they’re out of time.

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court issued an order saying this year’s census count must come to an immediate close.

Now, census organizers are fearful that the census undercount from ten years ago, which held back millions in funding from these communities, will pale in comparison to this year’s possible undercount.

“What you’re actually talking about in terms of human beings? We’re way, way undercounted, in the order that we were ten years ago for the last census,” said Alor Calderon, the director of the Employee Rights Center in City Heights.

RELATED: For Latinos Ineligible To Vote, US Census Offers Path To Political Power

Enumerators sent by the federal government to go door-to-door to check on families that had not yet responded to the census only had a few weeks to do their work, and many were sent home early.

But the government says almost all households have now been counted. This claim has left census organizers like Calderon skeptical that the government’s figures are correct.

Two weeks ago, a census event in City Heights identified families who hadn’t been counted by the government.

“In a day, we found 110 families that hadn’t been counted. Even after all this 110 families showed up,” Calderon told KPBS.

Reported by Max Rivlin-Nadler

By law, the census must be completed by the end of the year. And there’s no real way to correct the figures once they’re finalized, even with a new president or senate.

Calderon says this means that for the next ten years, neighborhoods like City Heights, and especially its unhoused and undocumented residents, will be living with the results of a botched count. And with each person counted averaging between $1,000 and $2,000 dollars of direct federal support to the district, the numbers are going to add up.

“So 10 people, it’s $2,000 in a year. Multiply that times 10, so it is literally millions and millions of dollars,” he said.

The Census Bureau says it will continue to process online census responses through the end of Thursday night.

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Photo of Max Rivlin-Nadler

Max Rivlin-Nadler
Speak City Heights Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI cover City Heights, a neighborhood at the intersection of immigration, gentrification, and neighborhood-led health care initiatives. I'm interested in how this unique neighborhood deals with economic inequality during an unprecedented global health crisis.

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