Census 2020: Taking a 15-minute survey will bring money to SLO County schools, hospitals and law enforcement

by: Amy Blasco

You count.

That’s the main message behind the County of San Luis Obispo’s 2020 Census Outreach Project.

Every 10 years, the U.S. Census Bureau conducts an accurate count of the population. In early January, SLO County officials joined in the effort by forming a committee of representatives from local schools, cities and nonprofits. Together they are leading the charge to count every man, woman and child in the county starting on April 1.

Why? It all comes down to funding and government representation. The data collected by the Census will be used to determine the number of seats each state has in the U.S. House of Representatives, as well as for redistricting state, county and city government. Additionally, the federal government will use the data to allocate funding to the state and county for schools, crime prevention, healthcare and other public services. For reference, San Luis Obispo County received approximately $74.7 million in federal funding in fiscal year 2017-2018.

Our county benefited from a high response rate in 2010, something officials are committed to replicating in 2020. However, there are some changes that might make doing so a challenge. For the first time ever, the U.S. Census is going online.

According to an article on Wired.com, “If the bureau’s plan works, a digital census could make the count more inclusive and, eventually at least, help cut costs—the 2010 census was the most expensive in U.S. history, costing more than $12 billion.”

Going digital sounds like a win-win for survey takers and recorders, but the switch involves training both sides how to effectively use the new technology and adhere to strict privacy protections. Beginning in mid-March, households across the United States will be invited by mail or phone to log in online to take the Census.

Of course, not all households are the same. A large portion of SLO County residents are renters, living with roommates or in multi-family households (or all of the above). In this case, one person acting as the “head of household,” such as a landlord or the primary bill payer, must take the Census for everyone on the property. And it’s important to count everyone—babies, toddlers, teens, adults and seniors.

To further ensure it captures an truly accurate portrait in SLO County, the Complete Count Committee is working with agency partners and Verdin to reach hard-to-count populations, including students, Spanish speakers, homeless individuals, seniors and people living in remote areas.

We are in the process of developing welcoming and informative marketing materials for all of these underserved communities that explain how to participate in the Census and why an accurate count benefits everyone. Stay tuned for more details!

For more information about the 2020 Census in SLO County, visit the Census Outreach Project website or census.ca.gov.

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