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    2020 Census: Rise Up and Be Counted

    By Assemblymember Phil Ting–

    We are living in unprecedented times. The Bay Area’s stay-at-home order is necessary to slow the spread of COVID-19, which threatens the health and well-being of our communities—not to mention our economy. Please comply with this directive.

    While you are homebound, please note that the 2020 Census is here. Once a decade, the federal government attempts to count every person living in the country. Basic demographic data is collected, such as gender, age, race, and city of residency.

    Your participation in the census is crucial because population size determines our state’s number of representatives in Congress and its share of federal funding. California alone receives more than $170 billion in population-based funding from Washington, D.C., to help support vital education, healthcare, housing and other social safety net programs. We stand to lose a portion of this allocation every time someone doesn’t fill out the census form.

    By April 1, Census Day, each household will have received an invitation in the mail to fill out the census questionnaire. You can answer via mail, but also by phone or online. This is the first census that will heavily rely on online responses, a perfect method to utilize considering our stay-at-home order. However, you can expect a hard copy of the census form to arrive in your mailbox April 8 through April 16.

    It’s important to note that while the Trump Administration wanted to add immigration status to the census form, the citizenship question will NOT be asked. They also are unable to include questions about sexual orientation and gender identity. But the census form will include, for the first time, a question allowing same-sex couples to identify as either spouses or unmarried couples.

    California’s population is especially challenging to tally because the Golden State is home to several communities that have been historically the hardest to count. Renters, communities of color, and the LGBTQ community are among them. According to Equality California, any loss of federal funding would likely hit LGBTQ families hard because they disproportionately depend on Medi-Cal and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (CalFresh) when compared to non-LGBTQ families.

    With so much at stake, as Chair of the Assembly Budget Committee, I helped to secure $187 million in our state budget to help ensure our count is complete and accurate. The funding aims to boost response rates through targeted outreach campaigns in several languages and partnerships with local nonprofits to help get the word out. We cannot afford an undercount.

    We also do not have the luxury to have our voices diminished in Washington, D.C. Given some of the policies coming out of our nation’s capital these days, California needs representation now more than ever. An inaccurate population count threatens our ability to keep our 53-member congressional delegation intact.

    The consequences of no or low participation in the census are real, and your cooperation is essential. I want to assure you that the information you give to the Census Bureau is safe and confidential. It cannot be shared with immigration authorities or law enforcement officials. Local code enforcement officers also cannot be alerted. For example, if your landlord thinks two people are living in your apartment, but four actually do, it’s important that four people are indicated on the census form.

    If your household has not responded to the survey by the end of April, census takers will follow-up with home visits over the next several months. The final report is due to the President and Congress in December. Let’s rise up and be counted for the 2020 Census. California has a lot riding on it.

    Phil Ting represents the 19th Assembly District, which includes the Westside of San Francisco along with the communities of Broadmoor, Colma, and Daly City.

    Published on March 26, 2020