Concerns over census process in CA

November 16, 2009 7:18:31 PM PST
The state's efforts to cut costs could result in California saving millions now, only to lose billions later. It's all about counting how many people actually live in the Golden State and there are concerns officials aren't spending enough to find and to count everyone.

An accurate census count of Californians is important because it determines how many representatives the state gets in Congress and how much federal money come back for things like education, healthcare and road projects.

But the state is too broke to afford an outreach budget as big as the last one.

"We have fewer resources available to us than we have in the past. We've been able to take the $2 million that's in this budget and pair it up with about $8 million from some of the major foundations in California," said H.D. Palmer from the California Finance Department.

Still, that's significantly less than the $25 million allocated for the last census.

California has 10 counties that have been historically difficult to get a head count because of language and trust issues.

Outreach dollars are needed to help census workers target communities that are typically difficult to count like undocumented immigrants.

Two national Latino groups have already urged boycotting the census.

Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada used to work for the Census Bureau. She sits on a legislative committee that estimates the state lost as much as $3 billion in federal funding over the last decade because of inaccurate counts.

"We would hate to lose additional dollars because the community does not understand the importance or relevance of the census," she said.

Add to that, the complications brought on by the foreclosure crisis, where more money may be needed to find families.

The regional director of the U.S. Census Bureau says it's prepared to help California with a national advertising budget.

"Facebook, you have Google, you have Yahoo. You have lots of different mediums, like Twitter. All that is free, that we're going to have advertising on. Another thing we're going to be doing too is TV. TV really reaches millions and millions of people," said U.S. Census Bureau Regional Deputy Director Michael Burns.

There's some doubt over whether a national campaign would work in California. What has been successful in hard-to-count communities is a trusted messenger, which isn't always the federal government.


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