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Salud Carbajal: Shaping our future with the Census
Guest Commentary

Salud Carbajal: Shaping our future with the Census

  • Updated

Filling out the census is an important responsibility we take on just once every 10 years as a nation, but the information we provide will help shape our communities for generations.

The data gathered by the Census Bureau helps determine how billions of dollars will be divided up among communities. These funds go toward improving local schools, fixing our roads, building affordable housing, and funding nutrition assistance programs so our children don’t go hungry.

In Santa Maria, an undercount in the 2010 census meant less money and inaccurate data for city planning projects like road repairs, and pedestrian walkways, which help make our community a safe, healthy, and thriving place to live. In addition to federal funding, Census data is used by businesses to make strategic decisions about where and when to open stores, hire workers, and build offices.

In 2010, Santa Maria’s self-response rate was 68.4%. Today, our self-response rate is 66.3%.

According to Mark van de Kamp, a spokesman for the City of Santa Maria, an unreported person means a loss of about $2,000 per person every year for the next decade. Children under five are often not reported and, to put it in perspective, if a thousand children go uncounted that translates to $20 million in lost funding over the next 10 years of those children’s lives.

That is a significant pool of money that could go toward improving quality of life on the Central Coast for all of our residents now, and would help us build a better community for our children to inherit 10 years from now and beyond.

Our economy is reeling from the impacts of the coronavirus, and the lost tax revenue has hit state and local governments hard. Now more than ever, we need to get counted so local governments can continue providing the essential services we all rely on in our daily lives.

The census also determines the number of electoral college votes and seats in Congress that California gets. This year, we’re conducting a census in the middle of a global pandemic, and under a President who has been determined to exclude immigrants from census results. We can’t let these barriers stop us from having full and fair representation.

Unfortunately, minorities and immigrants are historically undercounted due to language barriers and fear that responses will be used against them. I want to assure you that responses are protected by the law and are completely confidential and not shared with other agencies.

If we want our government to reflect the rich diversity of our district, we need to make sure every single person in every single household is counted.

The silver lining is that the census is easier than ever to complete. You can fill out the Census by mail, by phone at 1-844-330-2020, or online at www.2020Census.gov.

The deadline to fill out the Census is Sept. 30. Together, we can shape our future. We can make sure we have the funds to fix our roads, provide for hungry children, and ensure fair representation in Congress. All it takes is five minutes and a few questions. Pass it on.

Salud Carbajal is the Congressional representative for the 24th District.

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