A digital billboard traversed through city streets Wednesday encouraging local residents to participate in the 2020 Census.
Operated by the county’s Complete Count Committee and Housing Authority of the City of Santa Barbara, the drive through the city was aimed at getting the most accurate count for the 2020 Census.
Provided to the committee and Housing Authority by the state, the truck emblazoned animated messages such as “Let our count be heard,” “I count for my community,” and “social change is counting on you” on its digital billboard as it drove through Santa Barbara.
The News-Press saw the truck driving around 10:15 a.m. across State on Carrillo streets following an SUV plastered with Census promotional posters, driven by Housing Authority family self-sufficiency coordinator Primitiva Hernandez. Ms. Hernandez got the attention of passersby by honking her car horn as the truck trailed behind her.
According to Ms. Hernandez, Santa Barbara County has counted around 70% of its population for the 2020 Census, already a better response than what it received for the 2010 Census.
“It’s already surpassed the 2010 count, but we can do better, I believe,” Ms. Hernandez said.
To do better, Wednesday’s promotional effort was specifically targeted toward hard-to-count populations, which include unemployed and no-income individuals, people who live in crowded residential units, children under 5, seniors, and non-English speakers.
In order to reach them, Ms. Hernandez said the truck traveled through areas where these individuals are concentrated. The truck started out traveling through downtown Santa Barbara, where many people congregate throughout the day, before moving to areas on the Eastside and Westside of the city.
“We’re being strategic in where we place the digital truck in order to convey the critical messaging,” she said.
Ms. Hernandez stressed the importance of getting an accurate count for this year’s Census since local communities receive federal funding based on their population size. According to a press release, undercounting Santa Barbara County’s population could cost the county $2,000 per person per year over the next 10 years, taking away possible funding for schools and infrastructure. Ms. Hernandez told the News-Press that this loss would amount to around $43 million in federal funding lost each year.
Population recorded during the Census also determines congressional districts and how many seats California gets in Congress.
Though the Census count was originally scheduled to end on Oct. 31, the Trump administration recently moved to have the deadline a month earlier, Sept. 30.
On Tuesday, Gov. Gavin Newsom released his latest “On the Record with Governor Newsom” column encouraging all Californians to get counted for the Census before Sept. 30, and thereby help their communities get the funding and representation they need.
“By taking the Census, you will help secure billions of dollars of funding for your community, tribal nation and state,” he wrote.
He continued, “You will ensure you and your neighbors are represented in Sacramento and Washington D.C. Communities that have more people officially counted have greater representation in the legislature and the Congress, and they have more funding available to assist with the community needs based on this official count.”