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California Cities Play an Important Role in an Accurate 2020 Census Count

February 5, 2020
California is one of the most diverse and populated states in the nation and the upcoming 2020 Census count is critical to the future of our cities and the services they provide. 
 
League Executive Director Carolyn Coleman joined Secretary of State Alex Padilla, Assembly Member Marc Berman, and California Complete Count Director Ditas Katague for a wide-ranging conversation about the significance of the 2020 Census, and the importance of an accurate count at a Public Policy Institute of California Countdown to Census 2020 event on Feb. 3.
 
Every 10 years, as mandated by the U.S. Constitution, the federal government undertakes a census of the population to determine the allocation of seats held by each state in the U.S. House of Representatives. The next federal census will begin on April 1, 2020.
 
In addition to determining federal representation, the census is used to distribute federal funding to states and local governments. In California, dozens of vital federal programs that benefit our residents use census data and population counts as part of their funding formulas. These programs include the Community Development Block Grant Program, as well as key funding for roads, school programs and lunches, children’s health insurance, Head Start and foster care. Each year, California can receive as much as $77 billion in census-related funding, which is more than 80 percent of the total federal funds the state received.
 
To ensure that Californians receive their fair share of federal resources and congressional representation, cities throughout the state are collaborating with their local Complete Count Offices, as well as the statewide California Census Office, to encourage the full participation of all Californians in the Census 2020 count. California is home to some of the most hard-to-count communities in the country, and an inaccurate population count could result in a loss of the state’s share of federal funding and, for the first time in California’s history, a congressional seat.

Cities are encouraged to do what they can to ensure that everyone gets counted, which could include installing online response kiosk(s) in a publicly-accessible city building such as city hall or library, amplifying messages about the upcoming census using their city’s social media platforms, and holding public events to promote civic engagement and participation in the 2020 Census. Cities should contact their census officials for additional ways to support the census effort.
 
During the PPIC panel, Coleman discussed how cities play a crucial role in the 2020 Census count. Cities can only provide vital essential services to maintain the livelihood of their communities if they receive the resources to fund those services. Coleman said, “Money is doled out based on population and certainly is something that is very important for cities. We, as a state, have to really come together and put a lot of bright minds at the table to make sure we have built an infrastructure to help prep for Census day.”
 
Roughly 25 states have formed statewide Complete Count Committees, but California has truly prioritized ensuring a complete count of its residents. In the past two years, California has invested more than $187 million in census preparation to ensure a complete and accurate count. In 2018, Coleman was appointed to the California Complete Count Committee, where she emphasizes the key role that cities play in helping the state prepare to overcome the challenges of reaching hard-to-count areas.
 
How Your City Can Prepare
For more information on what cities can do to support outreach and make sure their communities are counted accurately, visit the League’s 2020 Census resource page, explore the California Census Office website, and read about additional resources available from the National League of Cities including “Five Ways to Prepare Your City for Next Year’s Census.”
 
Important dates
  • March 12-20: Invitations mailed to complete the 2020 Census questionnaire online.
  • March 16-24: Reminder letters will be mailed.
  • March 26-April 3: Reminder postcards will be mailed.
  • April 8-16: Another reminder and hard copy questionnaire will be mailed.
  • April 20-27: Final postcard reminders will be mailed before an in-person follow up.
 
The video for the PPIC event can be viewed online.


 
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