It’s been said that all things are political.
But in the case of the U.S. Census, it isn’t about party lines. It’s about county lines – the ones surrounding our Santa Barbara community.
Your participation in the census is actually a vote for our community to ensure we get our fair share of federal funding that is based on population.
The deadline to be counted in the 2020 Census is just weeks away on Sept. 30, and its importance to Santa Barbara County cannot be overstated. The census is crucial, and impacts everyone who lives here.
— Are you concerned about the local response to the COVID-19 pandemic?
— How is our county’s emergency response to wildfires, floods and earthquakes supported financially?
— What could happen to programs for our community’s seniors, children, underprivileged and disabled?
— How about funding for libraries, road repairs and community development?
I grew up in Santa Barbara and went to local schools, Santa Barbara City College and UCSB. The census count impacts all of them.
As a parent, I worry about how to support our schools and to get the teachers the resources they need to be effective. Many local schoolchildren depend on school lunch programs. An undercount of the census means underfunding these programs, which unfairly impacts kids who are the most vulnerable and need the programs the most.
As a former county employee, I am well aware of the programs funded or matched by the federal government: Head Start, Medicaid and Medicare, SNAP, Children’s Health Insurance Program, Pell Education Grants, and others relating to adoption and foster care, housing, vocational rehabilitation, emergency food and housing for families, child welfare, small business development and much more.
I now work to support local nonprofits and see the good work of these organizations to fill in the funding gaps to serve our community’s needs. I see the challenges to find new sources of funding.
Let’s be clear, everyone counts during the census, and we must all do our part to help ensure that our neighbors, family, friends and coworkers take this responsibility seriously. The census is a once-in-a-decade opportunity to help determine how much federal funding is distributed into our communities and how political boundaries are drawn for elected representation.
The number of responses from all of us shape decisions about how billions of dollars in federal funds will flow into Santa Barbara County.
For each person not counted, we could lose $2,000 per person, per year, for 10 years. We can’t expect philanthropic or local government sources to fill that gap. An undercount of just 5% translates to an estimated loss of $43 million a year in Santa Barbara County – $430 million over 10 years.
The census also determines how many seats our state receives in the House of Representatives, and the boundaries of congressional, state and local government districts. When you are counted, your voice will be represented.
2020 has been a difficult year for our county, state and the nation amidst the global pandemic. However, we can’t lose sight of our future by choosing not to participate in 2020 census by Sept. 30.
Ten years ago, no one could have imagined that the accuracy of that census would impact the resources to our hospitals and clinics for us to locally combat and recover from this pandemic.
If we are undercounted, we lose resources for when we need them the most.
Each of us has it within our power to ensure Santa Barbara County gets what we need to come out stronger and better prepared in the future.
Let’s make it count.
Respond to the U.S. Census online at www.my2020census.gov or by phone 844-330-2020 (English) or 844-268-2020 (Spanish).
Pedro Paz, Ph.D, is co-chair of the Santa Barbara County Census 2020 Complete Count Committee.
Dr. Paz is also the director of grantmaking for the Santa Barbara Foundation, and is a past trustee of the Santa Barbara Unified School District Board of Education. And he is a past commissioner of Santa Barbara County’s Human Relations Commission. He holds a master’s and doctorate in education from UCSB.