The 2020 U.S. Census form. Courtesy Census Bureau

As the State of California takes historic measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus, no one stands alone. We are all one community working toward the common goal of staying safe and healthy.

Times like these make participation in the 2020 Census even more meaningful for the San Diego region. Census data is used to fund research and programs that provide essential information for our public health system.

While April 1 is Census Day, the 2020 Census is already in full swing. A little over 11 million Californians have already completed the 10-minute questionnaire. The largest civic engagement operation in the United States, the Census, happens once every ten years. The task requires counting every single person currently living in the country regardless of immigration status, living situation, or financial position.

Each person counted could bring as much as $1,000 per year for 10 years to our region. And it’s not just about the money. The Census also determines how many seats each state holds in Congress, and is used to redraw boundaries in most local electoral districts.

The Census is especially important in a region as geographically and demographically diverse as San Diego County. Roughly 25% of California’s 40 million residents live in vulnerable communities and are at risk of not being counted. Barriers such as language capacity, poverty, homelessness, sexual orientation, citizenship status, race, and age can lead to low response rates making communities hard to count. In San Diego and Imperial counties, that could mean 1 million residents being missed in the count.

To prevent an undercount, Alliance San Diego is working in coalition with other organizations in San Diego and Imperial counties as part of Count Me 2020. Count Me 2020 is a nonpartisan coalition of over 150 civic, government, and community-based organizations committed to making sure that residents in hard-to-count communities are counted in the 2020 Census.

There is a lot at stake for all us. From funding for early childhood education to medical care to public transit, we depend on these critical programs to improve our lives.

The data collected during the 2020 Census will be used to make decisions for the next 10 years. With only one opportunity to get it right, the state of California has dedicated $187 million to educate and mobilize residents to participate Census. This commitment is meant to make sure that in California everybody is counted, because everybody counts.

Count Me 2020 is working closely with the state of California to conduct extensive outreach in hard-to-count communities, which include Latinos, African Americans, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, immigrants, refugees, children aged up to 5, households with limited English proficiency, and areas with limited broadband access.

Now, more than ever we need to make sure people understand the importance of being counted. Everyone should know that Census data is secure, and their privacy is protected by law. Completing the census is easy, and there are multiple ways to fill out the census form. It can be submitted easily online or by phone in 13 different languages by calling 844-330-2020.

While we are doing our duty to stay safe and healthy, let’s take 10 minutes to complete the Census. It’s easy, safe, and adds real dollars for our region. We can all do something to help the community and ensure a strong foundation for the recovery of our region.

Christopher Rice Wilson is associate director of Alliance San Diego, a community empowerment organization founded in 2007 to assist working-class families, people of color, immigrants and refugees. 

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