What Californians stand to lose by not filling out the census

ByMichael Finney and Randall Yip via KGO logo
Thursday, September 10, 2020
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With just three weeks before the end of the 2020 census, the state is scrambling to get every household to fill out a census form.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- From the fires in Northern California to the pandemic, this has been an inopportune time to conduct a census. And with just three weeks before the end of the 2020 census, the state is scrambling to get every household to fill out a census form.

The census determines how much of your tax dollars is actually spent in your community. The result, good or bad, is something California will have to live with for the next ten years.

But more than three out of ten Californians have yet to turn it in. From door to door visits to hotlines and phone banking, the state and its community partners are pushing hard to ensure everyone is counted.

RELATED: Make Yourself Count in the 2020 Census

David Tucker is with California Complete Count Census 2020.

"We don't have the luxury of a do-over. This happens now. The next time we get to fix this is in 10 years," said Tucker.

An undercount of the state's population would lead to a smaller share of the tax dollars being spent here. That's money for such important things as schools and health care.

The census count also determines how many votes the state will get in Congress.

"If we are not counted, that means less doctors, less nurses, less political representation," said Christian Arana of the Latino Community Foundation.

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He fears the state will lose anywhere from one to three votes in Congress.

In addition, many undocumented immigrants may have been scared away from filling out the census, despite it being a centuries-old practice of counting everyone.

President Trump earlier this year unsuccessfully tried to include a citizenship question on the census questionnaire.

But it's important to note anyone who misuses census information is subject to fines and jail time.

Arana assures everyone filling out the census is safe.

RELATED: Census Bureau must temporarily halt winding down operations

"And if anything, the census should actually be seen as a form of resistance," he said.

Another factor contributing to a potential census undercount is the decline in bilingual materials.

"This time around, they only mailed out the paper form in English and Spanish," said Arana.

That's why Eva Poon of Chinese for Affirmative Action says community groups have been phone banking disenfranchised members.

"For some folks, it's like the first time they've ever seen or heard of the census, and they think that only citizens can do the census, or that only adults are counted," explained Poon.

Those who fill out the census should find it quick and easy.

"It's really safe. It's really simple. It only takes five minutes," Tucker said.

You can find the census questionnaire at my2020census.gov. It's available on line in 13 languages.

Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.