Shortened 2020 Census Effort Obstacle to Achieving Full Count in Ventura County

The 2020 census count in Ventura County had been going so well, officials say.

The county had gone from being one of those most at risk for being undercounted to one of those least at risk, they say.

The percentage of county residents who had thus far taken the census — 72 percent as of this week — was higher than the state and national percentages.

Everything was looking good for a complete count by the Oct. 31 deadline, which would ensure the full amount of federal funds — billions of dollars — coming to the county over the next decade.

And then the U.S. Census Bureau dropped some bad news.

Director Steven Dillingham announced Monday that the count, which began March 12, was going to end a month earlier — Sept. 30 — “to accelerate the completion of data collection and apportionment counts by our statutory deadline of Dec. 31, as required by law … without sacrificing completeness.”

Vanessa Bechtel, CEO of the nonprofit Ventura County Community Foundation, which has raised about $1.7 million for marketing to get the word out to residents to take the census, didn’t welcome the news.

“I think it’s really unfortunate,” she said Tuesday. “We had developed a strategy that was going to take us through October and we really needed that time to do more outreach in person as things were (possibly) going to start reopening.”

A spike in COVID-19 cases in California has instead led to a tighter lockdown across the state, including in Ventura County.

“So, this is going to be very difficult,” Bechtel said. “We’re going to have to figure out how we adjust to the new count deadline, develop a more urgent strategy and just do the best we can to get a complete count.”

An undercount would have “disastrous” financial consequences for Ventura County, she said.

Each uncounted person represents an estimated loss of $2,000 annually for 10 years in federal funds to the county, she said.

If 100,000 people were missed, that would represent a loss of $2 billion for health care, social services, law enforcement, business loans, water systems, transportation and other services, she said.

An estimated 596,000 county residents have been counted so far, Bechtel said.

Some 250,000 residents still need to be counted, she said.

According to the 2010 census, the county’s population was 823,318.

As of July 1, 2019, it was estimated to have risen to 846,006, the Census Bureau says.

New Count Strategy

On Wednesday, in an emergency meeting of the steering committee of the Ventura County 2020 Complete Count Committee, a new game plan was formulated to try to achieve a complete count despite the shortened deadline, said Bechtel, who is a co-chair of the committee.

The committee is comprised of the foundation, census workers, local nonprofits, the county, cities, faith-based groups and service clubs, she said.

The new strategy includes additional paid media marketing, “census caravans” — parades of cars driving through neighborhoods alerting residents about the census — and perhaps most importantly, business outreach, she said.

Bechtel said she thinks the updated plan will help assure a complete count.

“Especially the business outreach because we know employers can help dramatically reaching out to their employees,” she said. “That is critical.”

Undercount Status Reversed

Constitutionally mandated every 10 years, the census aims to count the entire population of the United States, according to the Census Bureau.

Federal funds, grants and support to states, counties and communities are based on population totals and breakdowns by sex, age, race and other factors, the bureau says.

The count also determines how many seats states get in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Based on federal research, Ventura County was ranked a few years ago by the bureau as one of the most at-risk counties in the nation for an undercount in the 2020 census, Bechtel said.

On a list of 3,000 at-risk counties, Ventura County was ranked the 59th most at-risk county, she said.

Bechtel said that was due to income, educational and geographic barriers, as well as many residents lacking internet access. The census is being conducted largely online, she said.

In response to the poor ranking, the various community groups that comprise the complete count committee came together to address it.

“And we committed to not let that be our reality,” Bechtel said.

The commitment paid off, she said.

The county is now ranked by the Census Bureau in the top 10 percent of counties in the nation for an accurate count, she said.

“I think we’ve really turned it around,” she said

The favorable ranking is based on how many people in the county have been counted so far, which is tracked by the Census Bureau, Bechtel said.

As of Wednesday, Moorpark had the highest percentage of any Ventura County city of residents who have taken the census, at 79.2 percent.

Port Hueneme had the lowest at 63.9 percent, which nonetheless is higher than the national percentage, Bechtel noted.

COVID-19 Obstacles

The coronavirus pandemic has impeded efforts to get a complete count, Bechtel said.

For instance, while the count is currently in a phase in which census workers were supposed to be going to the residences of people who have yet to complete the survey, the workers haven’t been able to because of COVID-19 restrictions, she said.

And plans to place nearly 200 kiosks with census information throughout the county haven’t been realized because of health concerns, she said.

“So, COVID really has been disruptive,” she said. “But we’re resilient and we all just said, ‘OK, this is our new world. We need to do things differently.’ “

To fill out the census online and for more information about the census, go to my2020census.gov.

To contribute to the Ventura County Community Foundation’s census marketing efforts, go to vccf.org.

‘We all count,’ says census organizer

I recently had the good fortune to meet with Gabino Aguirre, a member of the California Citizens Redistricting Commission and co-chair of the census campaign in Ventura County.

Aguirre is a Santa Paula resident who was born to farmworkers and is a Vietnam-era veteran. We met to discuss Gold Coast Veterans Foundation’s participation in counting homeless veterans for the 2020 census.

The California Citizens Redistricting Commission had a massive impact on the state’s political landscape, leading to substantial changes in Sacramento and in the U.S. House of Representatives. The 14-member commission redrew the legislative districts for 80 Assembly members, 40 Senate members and 53 congressional districts, shaping the ballot box for 33 million people.

During our meeting, I learned about his military service. Aguirre was living in Fresno in 1966, and the United States had begun to escalate the war in Vietnam. The draft was in process, and he received a letter to report to the local recruitment office.

After basic training, he attended and graduated clerk school, after which he was assigned to a headquarters unit at Fort Ord. There, the Army received GIs returning from Vietnam who only had a few weeks or months left before discharge.

“Almost all of them were carrying physical and mental trauma and suffering from PTSD, even though that term was not in use at that time,” Aguirre said.

He was encouraged by his first sergeant to become a computer operator with a division that developed new technologies such as night vision and laser guidance systems.

“I served the rest of my term with this unit. I served from November 1966 to August 1969,” he said.

After his service, Aguirre used the GI Bill to complete his education. After one year at a community college, he transferred to UC Santa Barbara and then to UCLA, where he finished his bachelor’s degree in sociology.

Afterward, he began working for a farmworker education program and later earned a master’s degree and credentials in elementary and bilingual/multicultural education at USC.

He became an elementary bilingual teacher, then a counselor and then an administrator, serving as a high school principal for 20 years.

Finally, Aguirre earned a doctorate in social science/comparative education at UCLA.

Recently, California launched a statewide effort to achieve an accurate and complete count of Californians in the 2020 census. To assist with the logistics of the count, the California Complete Count office “grouped California’s 58 counties into 10 regions based on their hard-to-count populations, like-mindedness of the counties, capacity of community based organizations within the counties, and state census staff workload capabilities,” according to a page on the office’s website, census.ca.gov.

Last year, because of Aguirre’s experience and credentials, the Ventura County Community Foundation approached him to serve as co-chair of the census campaign in Ventura County.

“I accepted and am now the region 5 coordinator working out of the VCCF. Region 5 includes Ventura County and five other coastal counties between L.A. and San Francisco,” Aguirre said.

Each region knows its population best. Targeted outreach toward hard-to-count populations in each region will help toward the goal of a complete count in 2020.

Aguirre is passionate about the census.

“Now, more than ever, I realize how important the census has become. As a member of the California Citizens Redistricting Commission, we used 2010 census data to ‘redistrict’ 173 political districts in California. I now see that folks who were not counted in 2010 were theoretically not represented in this redistricting and therefore excluded within this representation.”

The census is important for multiple reasons, in particular the way the count influences political representation through redistricting and the allocation of federal dollars. This means that every person counted by the census equates to $2,000 per year in a variety of community and safety net services. This totals to $20,000 because the census count only happens every 10 years. Each person not counted represents a loss of funding for local communities.

“The census count is one of the major challenges we currently face, and we are encouraging everyone to join our campaign,” Aguirre said.

Meeting Aguirre gave me a clear understanding that finding and encouraging homeless veterans to participate in the count will lead to increased funding over the next 10 years for agencies assisting homeless veterans in Ventura County.

Census Day is April 1. By that date, every home will have received an invitation to participate in the 2020 census.

The census slogan is “I count. You count. We all count.” In Spanish: “Yo cuento. Tú cuentas. Todos contamos.”

For more information, visit venturacountycounts.org or send an email Aguirre at gaguirre@venturacountycounts.org.

This story was originally published by Moorpark Acorn

Now Hiring Regional Technician 

Now Hiring Regional Technician 
Salary Range $47,797 to $110,224 per year

Open to residents of Santa Barbara, Ventura, or San Luis Obisbo Counties

APPLICATION DEADLINE: August 28, 2019

HOW TO APPLY: To apply on-line, you must complete and apply through the USAJOBS website using the link below. To begin, click the “Apply” button and follow the prompts to either create a profile or sign-in to your USAJOBS account, answer the questions, and submit all required documents.

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The U.S. Census Bureau is an Equal Opportunity Employer.

Los Angeles Regional Census Center Recruiting Team
U.S. Census Bureau Los Angeles Regional Census Center
Office 213.314.6502  Toll free:  1.855.314.6664
los.angeles.2020.jobs@census.gov
View Field Jobs by State
2020 Census Research, Operational Plans, and Oversight

Now Hiring Census Field Manager – Camarillo, CA


2020 CENSUS JOB OPPORTUNITY 
Now Hiring Census Field Manager – Camarillo, CA

Salary Range $25.00 per hour

APPLICATION DEADLINE: August 26, 2019

HOW TO APPLY: To apply on-line, you must complete and apply through the USAJOBS website using the link below. To begin, click the “Apply” button and follow the prompts to either create a profile or sign-in to your USAJOBS account, answer the questions, and submit all required documents.

APPLY HERE

 

The U.S. Census Bureau is an Equal Opportunity Employer.

Los Angeles Regional Census Center Recruiting Team
U.S. Census Bureau Los Angeles Regional Census Center
Office 213.314.6502  Toll free:  1.855.314.6664
los.angeles.2020.jobs@census.gov
View Field Jobs by State
2020 Census Research, Operational Plans, and Oversight

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.

2020 Census Undercount Concerns Voiced at Roundtable

 

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra j with Santa Barbara County Assistant CEO Dennis Bozanich and Ventura County Community Foundation CEO Vanessa Bechtel talk with media after having a meeting on the 2020 Census.

This piece was originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent, and can be found here. 

Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties are the 58th and 59th counties most at risk of a census undercount in the nation, said president and CEO of Ventura County Community Foundation Vanessa Bechtel at a roundtable meeting with Attorney General Xavier Becerra. Becerra met with Santa Barbara and Ventura County Census committees on June 20 at the Santa Barbara Foundation to discuss initiatives underway to ensure every single person in the counties fills out a census. The Complete Count committees formed the complete count in part as a response to the citizenship question that is being proposed for the 2020 census and that the Supreme Court is slated to decide any day now.

Dependent on the Supreme Court’s decision is a question asking whether the individuals in a household are citizens may be added to the 2020 census. The possibility has local and state officials fearful that undocumented community members or mixed-status families may avoid filling it out, leading to an undercount.

In Santa Barbara, approximately 15 percent of the population is undocumented, one of the highest percentages statewide. If this population is not counted, Santa Barbara would lose out on roughly $126 million a year in funding, every year for the next 10 years. About 21,000 other individuals, roughly 5 percent of the county’s population, are deemed “hard to count” for other reasons, including being a racial or ethnic minority, homeless, a college student, elderly, or a young child. This 5 percent counts for $43 million in funding each year until the next census.

During the roundtable, local officials talked about initiatives already underway and brainstormed ideas to get everyone counted. Cochair of the Santa Barbara Committee and Santa Barbara Foundation Grant Writing Director Pedro Paz talked about expanding the number of trusted partners working with the counties to get community members to fill out the census. Gabino Aguirre with Ventura County Counts suggested flooding the media with “know your rights” messages and countering negative messages that may dissuade community members from filling it out.

There are concerns from undocumented folks that answering the citizenship question on the census could later be used to deport them. California State University Channel Islands Professor Chris Williamson, who teaches a demography course with a focus on the 2020 census, clarified that even if folks decide to skip the citizenship question on the census, they will still be counted. He also said it’s not likely that census workers will go knocking on doors of folks who do not answer that question. “They’re more concerned with nonresponse addresses,” he said. Becerra emphasized that it is against the law for the federal government to use census information against an individual or to share the information with other federal agencies.

The census count determines everything from local funding of law enforcement and social services to the number of state representatives in Congress. An undercount puts both of those in jeopardy and will have generational consequences, said Bechtel. To aid in the efforts for a complete county, Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties received $500,000 and $700,000, respectively, from the state, and there’s a possibility of additional funds, said Dennis Bozanich, cochair of the Santa Barbara Complete Count Committee and Deputy CEO for the County of Santa Barbara.

With only one chance to get it right, the state is committed to supporting local communities and partnering with them to get the message out, said Becerra. “We’re paying taxes but won’t get back our tax dollars if everyone’s not counted,” he added. “We are going to continue to do everything we believe is necessary to make sure we protect our people and our state and to get back our tax dollars.”

Census outreach organizers fear missing
people and dollars in Ventura County

This article was originally published on VC Star and can be found here. 

Organizers are trying to raise more than $1 million and mount a major campaign to reach Ventura County residents likely to be missed in next year’s federal census.

“It is going to take all hands on deck,” said Mike Pettit, an assistant county executive officer who is working on the effort.

The county ranks among the top 2 percent of a little over 3,000 counties in the nation most at risk for being undercounted, according to a state study. That’s not only because of income, educational and geographic barriers, but also because many people lack internet access for the survey that is being conducted largely online, organizers said.

Each uncounted person represents an estimated loss of $2,000 annually for 10 years, said Vanessa Bechtel, CEO of the Ventura County Community Foundation. If more than 100,000 people are missed, that represents a loss of billions of dollars for health care, social services, law enforcement, business loans, water systems, transportation and other services, she said.

Statewide, the census count also dictates how many seats California gets in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Bechtel and Pettit said strong efforts are underway to get a complete count.

City and county governments, nonprofit organizations and philanthropic foundations are being asked for funding to supplement state grants that local officials say will only partially cover the cost of the outreach campaign. Scores of organizations have joined a committee that is trying to turn out a complete count, Bechtel said.

“We have a huge complete count committee with over 100 participants from government, business, nonprofits and libraries,” Bechtel said.

Early this month, the Ventura County Board of Supervisors decided to support the outreach effort, allowing the county to receive $288,754 in state funding. Ventura and other participating counties must prepare plans showing how they will conduct the outreach effort, complete written reports and collaborate with state officials.

Pettit plans to return to the board with a budget proposal for county funding of the endeavor in March. The census date is a little more than a year away on April 1, 2020.

Ventura County Supervisor Steve Bennett has called the state funding “woefully inadequate” for the task ahead. The amounts the county and cities will be contributing is not yet known.

Areas with a high likelihood of being undercounted include south and central Oxnard, a large area northeast of Ventura along Highway 33, Santa Paula, Fillmore, CSU Channel Islands and Newbury Park.

The high-risk areas are characterized by factors that have been linked with low counts in past censuses, according to state data. Included are neighborhoods with crowded, rented and multi-unit housing, numerous families with children under age 5 and homes with low levels of education and relatively high use of public assistance.

Residents of certain neighborhoods in Oxnard and Santa Paula lack the computer technology that will allow them to respond to the census online, Bechtel said. The figure reaches 40 percent in some neighborhoods in Oxnard, she said.

Still unknown is whether the census will include a question asking respondents if they are citizens of the United States, which critics fear would depress participation by immigrant communities. The Supreme Court agreed Friday to decide whether the Trump administration may add the question.

Volunteers interested in working on the complete count effort may email Bechtel at vbechtel@vccf.org.