01 Apr Now That We Have the Time, Take The Time to Fill Out the 2020 Census Survey
By Marsha Mitchell
As Angelenos count our days of being “Safer at Home,” many are experiencing cabin fever, binge-watching overload, or are just plain overwhelmed as we endeavor to work from home and homeschool our children. Whether you are stir crazy from the quarantine or stressed from adjusting to our new (temporary) normal, it has become painfully evident that COVID-19 has exposed America’s vast inequities and the lack of a social safety net. The Coronavirus is also showing us why it is crucial for communities of color and underserved populations to complete the 2020 Census.
Specifically, census data determine funding for resources regional food banks and programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program SNAP which provides food stamps for nearly 9 percent of households in L.A. County, and Section 8, which receives more than $150 million a year from census-guided funding. Businesses use the data when deciding where to build new workspaces and create jobs. Foundations and philanthropy organizations use the census to identify where services are needed and how to supply funding. William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution1, said to the Los Angeles Times recently, “This is one of the reasons we take the census,” he said. “It’s the basis for these government and private sector programs that help vulnerable populations in a time like this.”
In January of 2019, the Census Bureau released a study on attitudes toward the census and found that African American and Latinx residents, at 35% and 32% respectively, were “extremely concerned” or “very concerned” that their answers would be used against them. Communities of color have historically been undercounted throughout the country, but especially here in California. L.A. County is known to be among the hardest-to-count in the state and the nation. There are approximately 10 million residents in Los Angeles County, and more than half are considered to be at-risk of low response.
Statewide, 72% of the population belongs to one or more of the historically undercounted groups. Besides Blacks, Asians, Latinos, Native Americans, Pacific Islanders, people with disabilities, renters, and people who are homeless, children 0-5 are among the groups most likely to go uncounted in the 2020 Census. Ironically, these “hard-to-count” populations have the most to gain from an accurate census count.
So what does an undercount actually mean for South Los Angeles?
Let’s examine just one lens of why we need to complete the Census—homelessness. In L.A. County, 34% of the homeless residents in 2019 were Latino. Black people, make up 8 percent of the county’s population, but 31% percent of homeless population. The city struggles to house more than 44,000 each night who sleep on the street. Thirteen thousand seven hundred nineteen are Black, and 12,442 are Brown community members.
In SPA 6, which encompasses South LA, there were 9,629 residents reported as homeless last year.2 Census dollars fund food programs, medical clinics, shelters, temporary and permanent housing. Now that we have the time, let’s take the time to fill out the 2020 Census Survey. While we are safer at home, please take the Census survey online to secure services for those who are homeless. It is one way we can step up for each other during this pandemic. It’s 10 minutes, 10 questions for 10 years of much-needed funding for South L.A.
It may just be the most impactful way you spend 600 seconds during the quarantine.
Marsha Mitchell, CoCo’s Director of Communications, is featured in #BlackWomenCount: The Black Woman’s Guide to the 2020 Census. This campaign launched by Black Progressive Action Coalition, BlackPAC, and BlackHer aims to educate and inspire Black women to: take the 2020 Census, help get out the Census count, and, get connected to civic engagement organizations in their communities. Check out the Guide below:
1 The Brookings Institution is a D.C. research group established in 1916 that conducts research in economics, governance, and economic development.
2 Homelessness in Los Angeles County 2019, Los Angeles Almanac: http://www.laalmanac.com/social/so14.php