Though Census Day is still a year away, Santa Barbara County and the Santa Barbara Foundation are hitting the ground running now to ensure that every person will be counted. The two groups came together to create a Complete Count Steering Committee to formulate a full-count plan with nonprofits, businesses, civic groups, and others. The committee is cochaired by Dennis Bozanich, county deputy executive officer, and Pedro Paz with the Santa Barbara Foundation.
“An accurate count for the 2020 Census is critical because it translates to millions of dollars in funding for local agencies and infrastructure, as well as programs and services for all of our communities,” said Ron Gallo, who heads the Santa Barbara Foundation.
More than 21,000 humans, or 5 percent of the population, in Santa Barbara County are deemed “hard to count” or less likely to complete the Census survey. The 2020 Census will prove to be especially difficult because it will be completed online. A citizenship question may yet be added, deterring millions of noncitizens from completing the questionnaire, pending a Supreme Court hearing. The hard-to-count population in the county represents $43 million in funding each year for 10 years. “Santa Barbara County can’t afford to undercount its constituents who depend on the breadth of services and grants, such as Medicaid, mental-health resources, education, school lunch programs, transportation infrastructure, neighborhood development, and housing assistance,” said Bozanich. “If we miss even 1,000 people, we stand to lose out on millions of dollars until the next 10-year Census.”
Community Action Commission CEO Patricia Keelean encourages people to get involved. “Volunteer to do presentations to civic groups, neighborhood associations, churches, to educate residents about how crucial it is for everyone to complete their Census survey,” said Keelean. “When the 2020 Census is underway, volunteer to assist seniors, non-English speakers, and others in completing the Census online.”