2020 Census: VC aims to count all, regardless of citizenship

Aaron Rohrer, Reporter

Ventura County has previously struggled to accurately account for the total population due to fears regarding reporting immigration status and regardless of the circumstances surrounding COVID-19, Ventura County is taking extra measures to avoid a Census undercount in the 2020 U.S. Census data collection. 

“There is a concerted effort to obtain a full count for Ventura County,” Luis Sanchez, associate professor of sociology at California State University Channel Islands, said in an email interview. “The Ventura County Community Foundation is bringing various agencies together in an effort to outreach to ‘hard to count’ populations and neighborhoods and express the importance of everyone being counted.”

According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, as of July 2018 the county is estimated to have 851,000 residents. Certain households in Ventura County fail to be represented in the Census data and this is something that according to Sanchez, should be addressed. 

According to a 2020 Census confidentiality factsheet, “under Title 13 of the U.S. Code, the Census Bureau cannot release any identifiable information about individuals, households, or businesses, even to law enforcement agencies.” Residents who skip the citizenship question on the Census will still be counted. 

Sanchez said there are two primary negative consequences of a census undercount. 

“The first is a loss of federal funding attached to each person counted,” Sanchez said. “The numbers are not exact, but around $2,000 per person (per year) is allocated for each person counted and it’s important to note this is the total number of persons utilized and referenced to until the 2030 Census.”

Federally-funded programs such as Planned Parenthood, The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC),  Medicaid, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) all rely on census data to determine the amount of funding allocated to specific regions. If there is an undercount, needy populations may not receive access to these federally-supported programs due to an underestimated allocation of resources.

U.S. Census Bureau

The second negative consequence regards political representation, as the count helps determine the number of House seats a state possesses in Congress. 

California has 53 representatives but a more accurate Census count statewide could alter that number.

“Given our county’s demographics, there is added importance of getting the word out to Spanish-speaking communities and residents in addition to the county’s increasing Mixteco community,” Sanchez said. 

Homes across the country began receiving invitations to complete the 2020 Census in mid-March. Census takers will follow-up with homes that have not yet responded to the 2020 Census from May through July. 

In December, the Census Bureau will provide the apportionment counts collected to the President and Congress as required by law, where further action in 2021 will be taken in order to redraw legislative districts if necessary, based on population changes. 

Residents can self-respond to the Census in three ways: online, by phone or paper questionnaire by mail. With a greater number of households now possessing access to the internet, it is anticipated that there will be a greater likelihood of an increase in self-response rates compared to previous Census data from 2000 and 2010. 

The current self-response rate of Ventura County households as of March 20 is 16.4%. Census data collected in 2010 shows that 72.5% of households filled out the Census form on their own. 

An undercount of just 27.5% of households in Ventura County, as occurred in 2010, could result in the loss of millions of dollars in federal funding for the county. Federal funding helps to fix the county’s infrastructure, schools and improve social services. 

Self-responding to the Census is what yields the most accurate results, and the VCCF is working diligently to develop strategies that ensure nearly all households are counted in 2020.