Census Day: San Mateo County employs non-contact tactics to achieve accurate count

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Today is Census Day – a highly atypical one given that in-person promotional events and critical door-to-door visits by Census workers have been suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Still, San Mateo County officials and community organizations are pushing forward with non-contact strategies to ensure all residents, including “hard-to-count” populations, are tallied in the critical decennial census. It’s an important mission, as data from the 2020 Census will be used to determine how federal funds are distributed to local communities, and how Congressional districts are drawn, over the next 10 years.

One tactic to achieving an adequate count amid the COVID-19 crisis has been to encourage citizens to complete their census online, an option offered for the first time in history.

“It is critical that county residents participate in the census as much of the federal government’s investment in our state and county is dependent upon an accurate population count,” San Mateo County Supervisor Dave Pine said. “The census is easy to complete online so let’s all take a few minutes now and do just that.”

Today at 3 p.m., the county is hosting a telephone town hall to officially launch the 2020 Census (see dial-in info below). The town hall will feature Assemblymembers Kevin Mullin and Marc Berman, County Supervisor Carole Groom, and Emma Gonzalez, Community Affairs Manager for the County.

Despite the new online census option, counting citizens amid the pandemic remains challenging. Typically, when households fail to respond to mailed census forms mailed to them, Census workers will knock on their doors to ask the needed questions in person. Also, in-person events are held to promote the census and assist citizens in brief process of filling out form. Those options are now off the table for the health and safety of census workers and citizens, making it difficult to reach certain populations, including the very young, very old, certain immigrant populations and individuals who are not native English speakers.

“In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, state and local Census officials have had to adjust their outreach strategy, relying more heavily on virtual outreach online and by phone than originally planned,” said Assemblymember Marc Berman. “Fortunately California has never been more prepared to meet this unique moment. While our outreach strategy has changed, our message has not. The Census is still happening and participating is one of the easiest, most impactful, and long lasting ways to support your community.”

United Way, Bay Area, is one of 10 organizations across the state leading community-based efforts to reach those populations. It’s using a variety of tactics to get the word out, from digital advertising to providing grants to several local organizations offering citizens assistance. Social service organizations are calling down their client lists to check in on everyone and ask if assistance is needed to complete the census, said Stephanie Kim of the United Way, Bay Area.

Kim also called attention to the work of Self-Help for the Elderly, an organization that serves the elderly Chinese-American population in the region, including in San Mateo County. In their regular food deliveries to clients, they have now included handouts about health best practices and information to fill out the census and where to call for assistance.

“Many of the hard to count populations are already marginalized. If they’re not counted in this census, they will become all the more marginalized, said Stephanie Kim of the United Way, Bay Area.

While the census takes only a few minutes to complete, it “has implications for the next 10 years,” said Melissa Vergara, a Community Outreach Specialist from the San Mateo County Office of Community Affairs, the county office working on the census.

“We are still really committed to a complete count, while complying with all health and safety standards,” Vergara said.

Further Information

San Mateo County Tele-Town Hall

Wednesday, 4/1/202, 3pm

Call: (855) 962-1455

Or www.facebook.com/countyofsanmateo

Respond to the Census: https://my2020census.gov/

Census Response rate for san Mateo County, as of 3/31/2020, for up to date information: https://2020census.gov/en/response-rates.html

Photo credit: San Mateo County