NORTH COUNTY — Although the 2020 Census does not begin until April 1, local preparations are under way to make sure everyone is counted.
This year the federal government took a huge step into bringing the census process into the new millennium by adding digital tools to its repertoire. The public can go online to fill out the questionnaire or call in and talk to a live person on the phone. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s 2020 Census Operational Plan, 45 percent of the populace that receives notification by mail is expected to respond online.
San Luis Obispo County District Supervisors, Debbie Arnold and John Peschong, said the County received $100,000 of the state’s $25 million allocated funds for the Census Outreach Project. The data collected by the decennial census determines the number of seats each state has in the U.S. House of Representatives and is used to distribute billions of federal dollars to state and local governments, according to the San Luis Obispo County Census Outreach Project.
A large part of the planning process involves reaching hard-to-count demographics and educating the public on why the numbers are important. In the 2010 Census, one of the least counted people were children ages infant to 5 years old and senior citizens. The homeless population is also a difficult demographic to nail down but is vital to have an accurate count since they use city and county safety net resources. The larger the number of people in an area, the more funds and resources available from state and federal agencies.
The County formed a committee to help reach those hard-to-count people as well as to educate people on the importance of the census.
“The Complete Count Committees are there to reach out to, in our particular case, the seven cities of San Luis Obispo County as well as stakeholder groups, nonprofits hard-to-count,” said Peschong in a phone interview. “The administration office of the count is heading this up and they’ve been working with the cities and nonprofits.”
SLOC Project Contact Kristin Eriksson said the committee is comprised of County and city staff and some nonprofits. She said the group has met a few times and has received input from the various entities to ensure they are getting a coordinated effort.
“We have not added any businesses at this point, although we imagine we will be reaching out to them in the future,” Eriksson said.
Verdin Marketing Agency won the contract to design an outreach campaign that Eriksson said is expected to be completed by the end of 2019.
“Basically what we’re looking for is messaging that is consistent with the state messaging but also localized to SLO County,” said Eriksson. “We’re also looking for them to develop materials and tool kits that we can share with the cities and with our nonprofit partners as they work on their own outreach efforts.”
Another demographic the Committee is targeting are college students. Eriksson said this demographic is one of the hardest to count on the Central Coast. She said that Verdin is looking at ways to appeal to and educate this demographic. The Committee is also reaching out to Cal Poly in hopes of capturing an accurate count.
Closer to home, Paso Robles Adult Service Librarian Karen Christiansen said her Library plans to dedicate a computer for the census.
“So, if you don’t have a computer at home or need help for some reason you can come here and get help from the reference desk folks,” said Christiansen.