By Italia Garcia, Interim Executive Director for the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice (CCAEJ).
The coronavirus pandemic is demonstrating how crucial food and medical resources are to working class communities. Providing children with hot lunches and rendering medical attention is getting families through these difficult times, especially in communities like San Bernardino, where 28 percent of the population is struggling to make ends meet.
Census data collected every ten years influences how much funding summer lunch programs, hospitals, and emergency services receive from the federal government. It is extremely important now more than ever to have every home, every person, and every family is accurately counted in the 2020 Census.
So far there are promising signs. Riverside County’s Census self-response rate is at 60 percent and San Bernardino County’s is at 59 percent. While both fall just slightly under the state’s average rate of 62 percent, the current figures indicate that coordinators and stakeholders are making inroads to ensure a complete and accurate count.
Nonetheless, there are still some factors we must continue to consider if we are to make the Census accurately reflectthe Inland Empire’s underserved and underrepresented populations. COVID-19 is causing disruptions for the thousands of families living in environmental justice communities—areas that already experience high levels of poverty, health disparities, and pollution impacts. Extra measures are necessary to make sure these neighborhoods are being counted.
For example, at the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice (CCAEJ), we are making it a priority to serve as first responders to meet the needs of residents during this pandemic. Our Census team, composed of phone bankers and canvassers, are adopting a more humanized approach to help encourage residents to fill out the Census and figure out what specific needs they may need to deal with the pandemic. Aside from providing families with educational brochures weekly, we are supplying them with care packages with organic fruits and vegetables, and masks. These efforts have helped us build rapport with residents; these families are now helping us promote the Census count.
We must also consider the contentious citizenship question, which continues to cause concern among undocumented residents. Despite the fact that the citizenship question was removed from the form, it is important to continue to reassure the public about their right to privacy and about the protections they have.
The Census is a prime instrument that will contribute to distributing much needed resources to communities that need it most. And it only takes 10 minutes. Visit My2020Census.gov or call 844-330-2020 to make it count for you and your loved ones.