More than half of the residents of the City of Escondido are estimated to be part of a population that will be less likely to answer questions from next year’s U.S. Census than the average resident. They are, in short, hard to count.
This week the city is taking the first of a number of steps designed to make that job easier. And, starting now, to educate the city’s residents about the importance of participating in the counting.
If this year’s cycle undercount is similar to ten years ago, Escondido could lose about $2.3 million over the next decade.
Of the city’s population of about 151,000 more than half—or 89,500— are considered hard to count. SANDAG has given the city a grant of $77,637. Some will be used by city staff and some by community-based organizations. Potential partners include: MAAC, Muslim American Society, National Latino Research Center, Escondido Education COMPACT, Interfaith Community Services, faith based groups in the City, and others.
The City will directly reach out to Hard To Count communities (including children under 5, households in multi-family/apartment developments, households with Limited English Proficiency, seniors) and will partner with community based organizations to ensure that accurate information is shared.
Karen Youel, Housing & Neighborhood Services Manager for the City told The Times-Advocate, “We have the 2020 census coming up in April. It’s an incredibly important process. In order to count every resident in the U.S. we are trying to get an accurate response.”
Why does the City concern itself with a federal function like the census? “There are a number of things that are dependent on an accurate count,” Youel explained. “The city will get a number of federal community development block grants (CDBG) which helps community improvements, public services. Plus Home funds to help develop affordable housing, Emergency Solutions grant funds for the homeless and Department of Homeland Security grants.”
Facts about the census:
• The 2020 Census is the basis to determine Congressional representation; there is also approximately $675 billion distributed by the federal government annually based on population, including $76 billion to California. In California, this comes down to about $2,000 per person counted.
• This funding is allocated for programs including: Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance, Schools (Title 1 Grants, National Lunch School Program, Head Start), Housing Choice Vouchers (commonly known as Section 8), Highway Planning and Construction, Senior & Foster Care Centers. The City of Escondido directly receives approximately $2.5 in Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funds for community development, housing and homelessness efforts.
• In 2010, only 73% of Escondido residents responded to the mailed census form; 42,000 required follow-up by a Census enumerator
• In 2020, the census will be available via the internet for the first time.
Youel notes that school districts get money based on how many children they have in the classroom. “We get political representation; so a number of state and federal district will be determined. We also learn a lot about our community. Questions are asked about languages spoke at home. Or where seniors live, so we can design our programs to best communicate and help people who live here.”
Recognizing the advantage of assisting the census in counting everyone, the challenge is figuring out how to maximize that effort.
“In Escondido we have a large population that is considered hard to count,” said Youel. “A lot of factors influence whether you are more or else likely to fill out the census. The children-under-5 is a large hard to count community. Some people don’t put children down when they answer the census, but that affects our schools and welfare.” People with limited English and homes with multifamily units and seniors will also be hard to count, she said.
The first thing the city will do is send out a postcard with information on the census and invite recipients to go online and fill it out. “If folks don’t do that we will send out a form, followed by folks knocking on doors. Most cost effective is to answer on the first round,” said Youel.
Youel and the two members of Neighborhood Services; some staff in Community Services, and some temporary hires will work to increase the awareness that the census is coming out and that people should fill it out.
“We will facilitate the census by putting in kiosks where people can get the census form and we will give some assistance,” she said. One kiosk will be in the Escondido Public Library, one will be in the senior center. One kiosk will travel to multifamily houses and mobile home parks, to make sure that people have access to a computer that has access to the internet.
Youel and her staff will also work with community-based organizations to train volunteers to raise awareness of the process to maximize participation when the census comes out.
Youel told The Times-Advocate: “I think this is a wonderful way of participating to make sure the community has state and federal resources and that everyone is counted. It’s the safe thing to do. People are afraid to fill out the forms but the information in the census—although collected on a personal basis—is aggregated so that things are not personally identifying.”
For more information contact Dulce Salazar in Housing and Neighborhood Services at firstname.lastname@example.org Or call 760-839-4057.