Speaker stresses importance of census

United States Census 2020 letter


Every 10 years the U.S. Census Bureau rolls out a survey to collect general data about residents in the country.

A local leader says that some people may not realize that if they don’t complete the survey it can mean a loss of federal funding to pay for medical, educational and housing programs, as well as some public improvements.

“It is absolutely the most pressing issue facing our community right now,” said Vanessa Bechtel, president and CEO of the Ventura County Community Foundation.

“If we don’t get it right next year, it will have generational consequences that will play out until all of us are dead.”

Bechtel’s words at a Simi Valley Chamber of Commerce luncheon on July 16 underscore how critical it is that the number of residents in the county be correctly calculated in the 2020 United States census.

The census collects general data about the number of individuals who live in the United States. Everyone needs to be counted, Bechtel said, because the results determine how and where more than $675 billion in federal tax dollars is distributed and spent each year.

For each uncounted resident, the county they live in could lose up to $2,000 annually in social safety services for the next 10 years, Bechtel said.

Locally, the census determines where retail stores, schools, hospitals and new housing developments might be needed.

Job training programs, rural and industry development loans, transportation, water safety and policing could all be negatively affected by an undercount, Bechtel said.

The survey data decides how many seats each state will have in the U.S. House of Representatives. As of the 2010 census, Congressional districts averaged about 700,000 constituents each.

If there is a significant undercount in California, seats could be lost, Bechtel said.

According to the foundation, out of more than 3,000 counties in the nation, Ventura County is ranked 59th most at risk of a census undercount.

Risk factors include language barriers, noncitizen status and, now that the census has a digital option, areas without internet access.

Bechtel said the best way to prevent an undercount is by raising awareness and educating others.

“When you’re at the dentist, talk about the census; when you’re at school, talk about it,” she said.

Starting in March 2020, households will receive in the mail a notice to fill out the survey via internet, mail or phone. Questions in the packet will ask about age, sex, race and other information regarding household members.

By law, every household must answer the survey. Not filling it out could result in a fine, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

It’s important for people to include everyone in the family, including children, Bechtel said in a later interview with the Acorn.

She also said the census should not be politicized.

“The question as to whether someone is a citizen or not is a barrier to an accurate and complete count, and it’s helping to fuel a culture of fear, especially within our immigrant communities and our neighbors,” Bechtel said.

The goal is to get an accurate count, she said.

“There is a concentrated effort to try to politicize the census, but (every person being counted in the census) has been a constitutional right since 1790,” she said in the phone interview.

Kathi Van Etten, president and CEO of the Simi Valley Chamber, said she invited Bechtel to speak about the census because “Ventura County is so at risk of an undercount and so much depends on getting an accurate count.”

“The Chamber was a great place to have that (presentation) so we could let our businesses and community know” about the risks of an undercount, Van Etten said.

In an interview with the Acorn in 2010, Herbert Gooch, California Lutheran University political science professor, said the census is vital because it helps activate political change and mend imbalances between rich and poor communities.

“It gives a socioeconomic clue to the differences and the needs of different groups within the county, and that in turn gives us important political clues as to the future of the county,” Gooch said.

For more information about the upcoming census, visit venturacountycounts.org.

Ventura County Counts July Newsletter

"Somos Vecinos": A Message from our Region 5 Coordinator, Dr. Gabino Aguirre
(Pictured here with Director of the California Complete Count Office, Ditas Katague)

gabino and another female personFriends and Community Members,
Thank you for your time and efforts thus far in helping us ensure a complete and accurate count of Ventura County residents in 2020! Our outreach plan includes encouraging individuals to participate in the census through a neighbor-to-neighbor strategy, or “Somos Vecinos” (We Are Neighbors). In many societies, “vecino” is a term that refers to a particular residential relationship but also encapsulates the notion of personal familiarity social connection. This strategy will be operationalized by local trusted messengers from hard-to-count populations and geographic areas.
The concept behind this strategy includes not only the notion of “residential ”vecinos”, i.e. individuals and families living next door to each other, but also “social” neighbors which incorporates other both formal and informal social networks that hard-to-count individuals regularly engage in and trust. Community members will be contacted in environments where they feel safe: their churches and faith communities, in homes and personal social environments, and at neighborhood businesses. “Somos Vecinos” also includes individuals who are “digital neighbors” utilizing social media platforms for connection and communication purposes.
With the 2020 Census count fast approaching, we hope that you will keep the “Somos Vecinos” strategy and spirit top of mind. We at Ventura County Community Foundation believe that the task at hand is a intersectional, bipartisan issue and that we have the opportunity to come together as a strong, unified community. We all have a vested interested to be sure everyone is counted, to ensure a thriving and healthy Ventura County.
I count. You count. We ALL count.
¡Somos Vecinos!
-Dr. Gabino Aguirre, Region 5 Coordinator

Meet Our Members

Jack Hinojosa and Heather Cousin, Co-chairs of the Education Sub-committee

Jack and Heather

Jack Hinojosa is the Chief Executive Officer of Child Development Resources (CDR) of Ventura County, Inc. The mission of CDR, is to provide the foundation to build promising futures for children. CDR collaborates with parents and the community to deliver high-quality programs that enrich lives.

Since the formation of the 2020 Census Complete Count Committee Taskforce Jack Hinojosa has served as Co-Chair of the Education & Outreach Subcommittee, along with Heather Cousin, Library Services Director, City of Thousand Oaks, to facilitate census awareness for local schools from prekindergarten through twelfth grade, as well as postsecondary education, community college and university institutions in Ventura County.”

Rosario Castañeda, Member representing Lideres Campesinas

rosario headshotOrganización en California de Líderes Campesinas, Inc represents a culmination of decades of work by farm working women (Campesinas). Farmworker women have been the leaders of many grassroots and mobilizing efforts to improve the lives of farmworker communities. Líderes Campesinas provides these long-time leaders and activists with the opportunity to coordinate their work statewide and has built collectives so that Campesinas may become agents of change and be a more effective unified voice.
Mi nombre es Rosario Castañeda y soy Miembra Delegada de la Organización en California Líderes Campesias de California desde hace más de cuatro años.   Nuestra organización lleva treinta años trabajando con la comunidad campesina e indígena. Trabajamos en crear educación, prevención y concientización de los diferentes tipos de abuso y promover la capacitación a las agencias de temas relevantes de la comunidad campesina. Apoyamos el enforzar leyes, vigilias, marchas y educación por medio de arte. Esto ayuda a las sobrevivientes en la resiliencia y en procesar el impacto del trauma. Me involucré en el censo por que tengo interés que seamos contados para que nuestros jóvenes y niñas tengan una buena educación porque ellos son el presente y el futuro. Todos como seres humanos tenemos derechos a ser contados. Queremos que nuestras voces se escuchen.

Sub-Committee Updates

All subcommittees continue to meet as we await the hiring of a media consultant who will develop state-sanctioned materials and resources. These will be made available to us and we will be localizing/customizing for maximum relevance and impact. A great tool available to subcommittees is the survey document developed and being distributed by the HHS/CBO Sub-Committee.

Region 5 Updates

  • All Region 5 counties (Ventura, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Monterey, San Benito and Santa Cruz) have organized their Complete Count Committees and are scheduling workshops for developing their Implementation Plans.
  • Training is being scheduled on the SwORD and PDI outreach and reporting software.
  • Our Region 5 Coordinator, Dr. Gabino Aguirre, has been traveling to other counties in the region to assist with coordination and census presentations.  

Strategic Plan

The Ventura County Community Foundation (VCCF) was selected by the State of California to be the Administrative Community Based Organization (ACBO) for Region 5. Region 5 includes the counties of Ventura, Santa Barbara, Monterey, San Luis Obispo, Santa Cruz, and San Benito. These documents outline the strategic plan that was put forth by VCCF and was accepted by the State of California.