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Border & Immigration

State Looks To Local Organizations For Help Counting All Californians In 2020 Census

Associated Press
An envelope containing a 2018 census letter mailed to a resident in Providence, R.I., as part of the nation's only test run of the 2020 Census, March 23, 2018.

A state agency is tapping community-based organizations for help connecting with hard-to-reach populations and increase their participation in the 2020 federal Census. The California Complete Count Office issued a request for groups serving specific segments of the population to submit innovative outreach efforts, partnership ideas and strategies to overcome challenges.

The state launched similar efforts for past decennial surveys, but the upcoming 2020 count will emphasize online questionnaires and ask about a respondent's citizenship status, which could impact response rates.

California Counts RFI
The request for information from the California Census Office.
To view PDF files, download Acrobat Reader.

Hard-To-Count Populations

Immigrants and the foreign born

• Non-English speaking individuals over 14 years of

age within households

• Single parent households

• Persons who are not high school graduates

• Persons who are unemployed

• Persons without permanent homes

• Number of vacant housing units in an area

• Specific ethnic and minority populations

• Renters and children

• Densely populated communities with multi-unit housing, public assistance characteristics

• Native American and Tribal populations

Source: California Census Office

Complete Count Office Spokeswoman Tamma Adamek said an inaccurate count means California could miss out on federal program dollars. The office estimates a loss of $1,950 each year for every uncounted person.

“A lot of the communities that are going to be afraid to answer the door, afraid to answer the questions are the populations that benefit from the money that comes to California," Adamek said in a phone interview.

It could also affect the number of California's congressional seats and local district boundaries, she said.

The U.S. Census Bureau said 17 percent of census tracts in San Diego County and 43 percent in Imperial County are considered "very hard to count."


Responses to the state's request for information are due Friday. A county representative shared the request with the San Diego Refugee Forum, which represents multiple local immigrant-serving organizations, including several in San Diego's City Heights neighborhood.

Adamek said the state will review the information and later invite organizations to apply for funding to execute an idea.

California filed one of several lawsuits challenging the Trump Administration's decision to reinstate the citizenship question and the case is scheduled to go to trial in January, a representative from the attorney general's office said. A March memo from the U.S. Department of Commerce said citizenship information will provide census block-level data on the voting age population, which is currently not available.

According to the 2020 Census Operational Plan, the federal bureau will use government or third-party information to fill in missing data or identify whether home visits are necessary for those who don't respond to digital, paper or telephone surveys.

"A reduced number of visits will lead to significant cost savings," the report said. "It can also allow the Census Bureau to focus its field resources to achieve consistent response rates across geographic areas and demographic groups."

An August report from the Government Accountability Office found the bureau's preparations for the 2020 Census were $3 billion over budget, about half of which is due to information technology costs.

"...(T)he Bureau continues to face significant challenges and risks in its efforts to manage the schedules, contracts, costs, and cybersecurity of its 2020 Census systems," the accountability agency said.

State Looks To Local Organizations For Help Counting All Californians In 2020 Census
The state effort comes amid new challenges posed by the upcoming federal survey.