County officials to begin census outreach

Colusa County is gearing up for the decennial census that will take place in 2020. 

The Board of Supervisors authorized Colusa County Health and Human Services to enter into an outreach agreement with the state to make sure every person in counted. 

The state relies on an accurate count of California’s population, including people living in the country illegally, because population determines congressional seats, electoral votes, and government funding to state and local governments, said HHS Director Elizabeth Kelly.

“Basically what the state is hoping for is to reach the ‘hard to count’ community, which could be our whole county,” she said.

The state will reimburse Colusa County $25,000 to make sure all households answer the census, and Kelly said they plan to accomplish that by partnering with the libraries, family action centers, or by other means. 

While a federal judge recently blocked the U.S. Commerce Department’s order to include a citizenship question on the census, the U.S. Supreme Court last week agreed to hear the case before the scheduled June print date for the 2020 census forms.

Kelly said the county would likely have greater participation from people if the citizenship question were not asked.

“We would probably have better feedback…and it would give an accurate reflection,” she said. 

The U.S. Constitution mandates a census to be taken every 10 years to count every single person residing in the United States. 

Since 1790, the census has asked a number of demographic questions, including gender, race, language spoken, place of birth, citizenship, education, occupation, military service, and income, among others.  

Between 1970 and 2000, the U.S. Census Bureau used two questionnaires. Most households received a short-form questionnaire asking a minimum number of questions, which excluded citizenship. One in six households received a long-form questionnaire that included additional questions about the household, including citizenship. 

The 2010 Census had just one questionnaire consisting of ten questions, which included age, gender, race, whether a person’s origin was Hispanic, and whether they had divided residences, but it did not ask whether the person was a U.S. citizen. 

For localities that rely on federal money to help fund programs, the stakes are high that all people be counted, whether citizens or noncitizens, Kelly said.  

For every Californian missed during the Census 2020 count, the State is expected to lose approximately $1,950 per person, per year, for 10 years, in federal program funding. 

Kelly said the 2020 Complete Count Census outreach campaign will focus on both the geographic areas and demographic population of Colusa County who are the “least likely to respond.”

Additionally, the 2020 federal census has been reformulated so that people can respond in an electronic format, rather than by mailed documents, if they so chose.  

Colusa County’s agreement with the state provides funding for development of plans and their implementation of various forms of outreach over a period of time, Kelly said. ■