In preparation for the upcoming U. S. Census in 2020, Santa Clara County along with many cities in Silicon Valley are ramping up efforts to help ensure that all residents are counted. The census happens once per decade and is aimed at delivering a headcount of every living person in the country. It’s a government function prescribed by the Constitution and has been in practice since 1790.
The census is of immense importance because the results determine how many seats each state gets in the House of Representatives. It’s also used in the allocation of $675 billion in federal funding, which states utilize to maintain public services and infrastructure. If the census reveals changes in population distribution, states will redraw district lines.
“Due to significant budget constraints, the U. S. Census Bureau will have reduced capacity for public outreach and technical assistance,” explained Lenka Wright, Director of Communications for the City of Santa Clara. “According to latest reports, there will be half the number of Census field offices (250) for the 2020 Census compared to 500 offices for the 2010 Census. This is one of the reasons why it’s critical for Santa Clara to increase its outreach efforts in support of census participation.”
If the count doesn’t accurately capture the actual population, it would mean less funding for affordable housing, transportation and other services for Santa Clarans.
In addition to budget constraints, Census accuracy has also been threatened by the Trump Administration’s ongoing attempt to add a question about citizenship status, a move many claim is unconstitutional and counterproductive. Such a question could result in lower participation rates, which could cost funding and congressional seats for California and other states with larger immigrant populations. The citizenship question is currently before the U. S. Supreme Court.
Since September 2018, the City of Santa Clara has been preparing for the census, which will take place on April 1, 2020, by participating in the County’s Census 2020 Complete County Committee. The committee is made up of representatives from cities across Santa Clara County including from schools, churches and community organizations.
“In the proposed Fiscal Year 2019-20 budget, City Manager Deanna J. Santana will recommend setting aside up to $100,000 in one-time funding from the City’s General Fund to support additional outreach efforts for the 2020 Census,” stated Wright. “Supporting efforts that help result in a more complete count, generally pay for themselves over time as federal programs to award funds are generally based on population-based formulas to distribute federal funds to cities like Santa Clara. A more complete population count results in more funds cities receive by formula distributions.”
The planning phase for the outreach effort is currently underway and is designed to encourage Santa Clarans to participate in next year’s census, with special focus on hard-to-reach communities. The City launched a new webpage, Santa Clara Counts, which provides more information about the census, outreach efforts and how residents can get involved by volunteering.
On the regional level, a group of Bay Area foundations have created a grant opportunity to help support local outreach efforts. Nonprofit organizations interested in applying for the funding can email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit Northern California Grantmaker’s website.