The 2020 U.S. census may only have nine questions for residents but it has 10 years of impact, and Tri-Valley census counters have been working hard to ensure that every resident counts.
Local officials are striving to make sure the region's count is as accurate as possible and so far appear to be doing an effective job, with Tri-Valley communities responding at rates higher than both the state and national averages.
"The census is extremely important for every citizen to participate in, as it serves as a mechanism for cities/counties to obtain financial support from the federal government. I have encouraged all residents of Alameda County to fill it out so we can get our fair share of funding for important programs that help shape our quality of life," Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty told the Weekly.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, as of Tuesday, Livermore led the pack with a 76.8% self-response rate, followed by Pleasanton with 75.3% and Dublin with 71.3% among Tri-Valley cities in Alameda County. Over in Contra Costa County, census officials have documented a high 82.1% response rate in Danville, 79.6% in Alamo and 74.5% in San Ramon.
That makes the Tri-Valley's total self-response average resting at approximately 76.6%.
In Alameda County, the total self-response rate sat at 69.3% while Contra Costa County's was slightly higher at 71.3%, as of Tuesday.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the Golden State's household self-response rate rested at 63.2%, which is slightly above the national 62%, as of Tuesday. For reference, in 2010 the national mail-in response rate was estimated to be 74%.
An immense project undertaken once a decade, the U.S. census determines how billions of dollars in federal and state funding is allocated to communities based on population to pay for government efforts such as education resources, affordable housing programs, nutrition and health care services.
On the state and national level, it also determines how many representatives each state is allocated in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Particular attention is being paid to ensure that hard-to-count populations -- residents who are homeless, highly mobile, distrustful of government, require language assistance or live in areas that are hard to reach -- are reached according to census officials, so that these figures are as accurate as possible.
According to Contra Costa County census officials, every person missed in the census count is estimated to cost $2,000 a year in lost federal funds, so even an under-count of only 5% would result in a loss of more than $1 billion in funding over the next 10 years.
The census is happening now, with all Californians being able to complete the 2020 census form online at census.ca.gov, by phone -- 844-330-2020 for English, 844-468-2020 for Spanish -- or by mail, as paper forms are being mailed to households that have not yet responded.
Residents who fill out their census form will be asked a total of nine demographic questions including who lives in the household; how they are related; their age, sex, and race; whether they own or rent their house; and their phone number. Census officials stress that answers are completely confidential and will not include a resident's citizenship status, political affiliation, banking information or Social Security number.
Census takers are scheduled to interview homes that haven't responded Aug. 11 through Oct. 31 with the U.S. Census Bureau set to deliver apportionment counts to the President and Congress by December.
Then by July 2021 the Census Bureau will send redistricting counts to states for redrawing legislative districts based on population change.
The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has slowed many census-related events and in-person activities to reach these hard to count populations and others -- for example plans to count people experiencing homelessness have been pushed from March 30 to Sept. 22-24. However, census officials say they are still doing all they can.
"Despite COVID-19 (making us unable) to do any census events or the county unable to do any workshops, the higher numbers are due to the early outreach efforts started last year," Aparna Madireddi, a member of Contra Costa County's 2020 Census Complete Count Steering Committee, told the Weekly.
"However, at this time, with illnesses and job losses, it has been harder to get people to respond as easily. When the county and I send out reminders, we see an uptick but it's barely inching up at the moment. I am hopeful that once the shelter-in-place orders are lifted fully, things will shift," she added.
Learn more about the census and local officials' efforts to make sure every resident counts online at www.acgov.org/census2020.