City Council approves county funding for Census 2020 outreach efforts in hard-to-count communities

The City Council on Tuesday approved county funding for Census 2020 outreach efforts in communities in Long Beach considered difficult to count.

The $322,141 earmarked for Long Beach is part of a $9.39 million grant from the state to the county for Census implementation efforts.

It’s intended to go to community- and faith-based organizations, outreach efforts from city departments and digital  2020 Census Action Kiosks in locations considered publicly accessible.

Census Day is April 1, 2020 and will include an online questionnaire sent to households first, followed by mailed questionnaires and enumerators for those who fail to submit the forms.

The 7-0 vote (Councilwomen Lena Gonzalez and Suzie Price were absent) also included a presentation on the work being done by the city Census team.

Last summer, the city took part in and completed the Census Bureau’s Local Update of Census Addresses program with the help of organizations like Centro CHA, United Cambodian Community, St. Luke Holy Baptist Church, Latinos in Action and Long Beach Forward.

That update allowed the city to identify 5,800 new address locations.

With the first phase of census activities complete, this new funding is expected to help with the second phase, which includes educating and motivating community members into participating, according to a city report.

Deputy City Manager Kevin Jackson said the city has over the past year worked to strengthen its relationship with organizations across the state, county and city as well as the Los Angeles Regional Census Table, which is made up of multiple organizations and is receiving state funds, and the subregional partner Long Beach Forward.

The next steps include launching a Census 2020 website and launching a Complete Count Committee composed of city and community organizations. An outreach and implementation plan is also being finalized and is expected to include the participation of leaders in the community as well as those in the education, business, health care, housing, workforce and media industries.

The first committee meeting is expected to take place in early to mid-July when education and outreach around the Census is expected to begin.

Jackson said the planning and execution of the 2020 Census will require work from various city departments and one-time funding that will be needed and identified in the fiscal year 2020 budget. He did not provide a dollar amount.

Mayor Robert Garcia noted the importance for cities as diverse as Long Beach to take it upon themselves to provide accurate counts. Funding for programs focusing on homelessness, housing, low-income families among other populations are all set up through the numbers, he said.

“Unfortunately, it’s not going to be a great cycle for cities as they ask and seek help from the federal government,” Garcia said. “We won’t be receiving the same type of support we would like to receive. It’s going to fall on states, counties and cities to step up and fill that gap.”

When asked by Councilwoman Jeannine Pearce about what the community partnerships will look like, Jackson said a strategic plan still needs to be created but that it would be centered on the county’s own plan.

“The community based organizations will be adequately supported form a variety of resources to do on the ground campaigning,” Jackson said.

Counties will also need to work with partners to secure a language access plan as well. It’s a major issue for Long Beach where multiple languages are spoken, including Spanish, Tagalog and Khmer.

James Suazo, associate director of Long Beach Forward, called the formation of the Los Angles Regional Census Table group unprecedented and important to better organize organizations and strategize together.

“We all know what’s at stake for the 2020 Census,” Suazo said.

He noted that hard-to-count communities include overcrowded housing units, those who speak limited English, have limited internet access and are low-income. They also tend to live in the north, west and central parts of the city. Because of this, Suazo urged the city to hire locally because those who know the community best are the most able to reach the community.

California is already considered the hardest state to count in the nation but efforts by the Census Bureau to add a citizenship question could discourage more people from participating, according to some community groups and municipalities.

It is estimated that 10.4 million Californians live in hard-to-count Census tracts.

It’s still unclear if the question will appear due to a pending Supreme Court ruling—Long Beach is a co-plaintiff in one lawsuit—but there’s also the issue that financial constraints have led the Census Bureau to focus on online questionnaires instead of mailing them out.

As such, the state invested $100.3 million for the 2020 Census with an additional $26.7 million proposed for the 2019-2020 state budget.

“Hard-to-count” populations, according to the Census Bureau, are those where more than 27 percent of households in a certain area are not likely to complete the decennial Census questionnaire. They include racial and ethnic minorities, low-income communities, people with only a high school diploma, seniors and children under age 5 as well as those living in non-traditional housing. It also includes immigrants and refugees, LGBTQ individuals, veterans, college students and those with limited English proficiency.

A more accurate count of communities means more federal dollars and more political representation. The state receives about $77 billion in federal funding annually, with Long Beach receiving over $80 million annual and $32 million in grants.

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Stephanie Rivera is the community engagement editor for the Long Beach Post. After graduating from CSULB with a degree in journalism, Stephanie worked for Patch Latino and City News Service before coming to the Long Beach Post in 2015.