Census takers to begin going door-to-door in August to finish 2020 count

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- If you haven't filled out the census, expect a knock on your door soon.

Starting Aug. 11, census takers will begin visiting the homes of people who have not filled out the census survey yet.

While this second phase of the census happens every decade, local officials fear there could be less willingness by the public to open their doors because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"In 2010, people were willing to open their doors. I am not convinced that is the case right now in this current era," said Nicholas Kuwada, 2020 census program manager for Santa Clara County. "I don't believe people will be opening their doors because of fear of government, because of the virus. So I am very concerned about the level in which people will be willing to participate."

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To boost compliance before enumerators take over, officials are doubling their efforts to get Bay Area residents to comply.

Getting the census off the ground has not been easy this time around.



First, the Trump administration tried to include a question about citizenship that some advocates said would suppress participation among immigrant communities. The courts eventually ruled against the citizenship question.

Then, just as the government sent out the census forms in mid-March, the pandemic forced the closure of all non-essential businesses.

In Santa Clara County, the shelter-in-place order went into effect just a few days after officials held an event to promote census participation.

"It was the worst timing in the world," said Kuwada.

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Outreach efforts were paused and Census Day on April 1 came and went with little fan fare as information about the coronavirus dominated news programs.

"We are diligently still trying to get people to respond," said Shay Dognia, local representative for the U.S. Census. "That is probably the hardest part of the census is getting people to respond."

Dognia said that despite the obstacles, many Bay Area counties have already outperformed their 2010 participation.

Currently, the self-response rate in California stands at 63.3 percent.

Bay Area counties has mostly fared better, with most around a 71 percent participation rate. (View up to date response rates for your community)



Santa Clara County stands at 71.3 percent, Contra Costa is at 71.4 percent, Marin has a 70.9 percent response rate, Alameda County is at 69.4 percent, and San Mateo County has a 73.4 percent participation rate.

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Only San Francisco is doing worse than the state with a self-response rate of 60.1 percent. Local officials are doing all they can to boost those numbers, which directly affect critical funding from the federal government.

"One or two percent is devastating for our county. If we took a snapshot today. If we ended the census right now, we would lose so much in services for things like Section 8 housing, funding for our schools. Our fair share of funding that we deserve," said Kuwada.

In general, counties lose about $2,000 in federal funding each year for each person that is not counted. In Santa Clara County, not counting a fourth of the population would mean not counting an estimated 500,000 people. That would mean a loss of funding of $1 billion each year.

"We were already anticipating reduced revenue from an economic slowdown, but with COVID-19 and everything that comes with it, we are going to see revenues decline even more. So to have on top of that an undercount, it just will be devastating," said Santa Clara County Chief Operating Officer Miguel Marquez, who fears services will be cut even more than expected.

To prevent an undercount, Santa Clara County is doing outreach by phone, and distributing flyers at food distribution sites, supermarkets and COVID-19 testing centers.

"We are hiring people to do the knocking on doors and follow-ups," said Dognia.

Enumerators will have to wear masks and use sanitizers. They will also have to stay six-feet away from people while they conduct the surveys. The deadline to complete the census was supposed to be the end of July, but that date has been pushed back to the end of October.

The census can be filled out by phone, mail or online. About two-thirds of California residents have chosen to fill it out online.

To fill out this year's census, visit 2020census.gov.
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