We have a once-in-a-decade opportunity to lay claim to what is rightfully ours in this country — resources for fundamental human rights such as health care, food and housing, and a fair say in who leads the political institutions that have the power to protect or harm us.
The 2020 Census will inform how more than $1.5 trillion of federal funding is invested in communities and — especially for those who historically have been undercounted and underrepresented — how voting district lines are drawn for the next 10 years and how many seats are allocated to California in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Getting counted in the census is necessary for our communities’ access to money and power. But that is now under threat with the shortened census deadline at the end of the month that is meant to curtail an accurate count, especially of our most hard-to-reach communities in the region.
Bay Area communities are responding to the 2020 Census in starkly disparate ways. In past census counts, people of color, low-income communities, people who are LGBTQ+, people experiencing homelessness, immigrants and refugees, those with disabilities, and families with young children have been missed — and these communities are at dire risk of being left out once again.
With the census operation wrapping up in the coming weeks, we are seeing neighborhoods across San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose still responding at rates that are 20-30% below the Bay Area average. An undercount of any of these communities results in an incomplete and inaccurate portrait of our community members, overcrowded classrooms, underfunded services and underrepresentation for policies that support our region.
Counties throughout the Bay Area rely on census-informed federal funding for education, free and reduced school lunches, community health care, accessible transportation and other programs we rely on every day. Counties will be utilizing census data in the coming years for economic relief programs, public health research and to create policies to help the long-term recovery of communities hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The U.S. Census Bureau is shortchanging our most vulnerable communities by rushing both the door-knocking operation and the data processing that follows. Follow-up visits by Census Takers and quality-check processes are being compromised in an effort to rush to the finish. We must call for accountability while also continuing outreach to our neighbors to ensure that a fast tracked census does not lead to an unfinished and incomplete census.
The census is so much more than an address-based count; it’s a fight for every person to be seen, to be included and to be valued in our diverse community. When people are left out of the census, their existence, contributions and struggles are erased. Resources and political power meant to support them and give them a voice are assigned somewhere else. An undercount in our most marginalized communities is an undercount in the Bay Area, and it affects all of us.
Stephanie B. Kim, is senior director of Census 2020 at United Way Bay Area. Julia Marks is a staff attorney for …read more
Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment