Santa Barbara County’s strategic plan for the 2020 census has been approved by the state, officials said Tuesday.
The state approved the plan July 30 and the county received notification Monday, Deputy County CEO Dennis Bozanich said.
The plan will be used to ensure a complete count of everyone living in Santa Barbara County, regardless of legal status.
“We’re well underway,” Mr. Bozanich said. “For example, we have a committee on local government and state partners. We have another committee for the philanthropic community, another committee on how we message to the undocumented and immigrant communities.”
Some of the main challenges to ensuring a complete count are groups that are hard to count: Twenty-three percent of Santa Barbara County residents are foreign born, 39.7 percent speak a language other than English, 5.8 percent have a disability, 14.2 percent are at or below the poverty line, and 5.3 percent of children are younger than 5 years old, according to the county’s strategic plan document.
Santa Barbara County is ranked the 58th most vulnerable to undercounting in the nation. Ventura County is ranked 59th.
Santa Barbara County’s ranking is due to “a fair amount of transiency because we have such a high percent of rental housing in our community,” Mr. Bozanich said.
Concerns center “around the undocumented, the high amount of students we have living here … and the number of older folks,” Mr. Bozanich said.
The state will lose $1,958 for every individual who is it not counted in the census. California could lose a congressional seat if the undercount is greater than average, according to the strategic plant.
In June, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra visited Santa Barbara to host a roundtable discussion with Santa Barbara and Ventura county leaders on how to best reach out to traditionally undercounted populations, such as the homeless, students, transients and illegal aliens.
The main concern of the discussion was the possible inclusion of a citizenship question and how it would affect ensuring a complete count of Santa Barbara County. Although the U.S. Supreme Court stopped the citizenship question from appearing on the census, the Steering Committee, which is responsible for coordinating outreach efforts to historically hard-to-count groups, is still committed to proceed as though the question is still on the census, according to Mr. Bozanich.
California is spending $120 million on census outreach efforts to hard-to-count populations. California has made a commitment to provide $350,000 to Santa Barbara County and will likely provide another $225,000, Mr. Bozanich said.
“About a third of [$120 million] the state is going to keep at the state level to do big media buys, especially in major media markets,” Mr. Bozanich said.
Some of the ways the state and the county are reaching out to hard-to-count populations is on utility bills, through local faith communities and volunteers.
“Some of the money is going toward having to help people overcome the fear that the [citizenship] question has raised for them about what will government do with that information,” Mr. Bozanich said.
The county is also looking to help people fill out census information online or over the phone, so they don’t have to speak with someone face to face.
“If people have access to computers, they’ll be able to complete the forms online. That’ll keep someone from knocking on your door. And if you don’t have a computer, there will be a toll-free number with translators available to help them fill out the form over the phone so that a government employee won’t have to come and knock on their door,” Mr. Bozanich said.
“We have to do our best to communicate to everyone that lives in Santa Barbara County that there are these other ways of completing the census in a way we then get a complete count and we don’t lose the financial resources and we don’t lose the federal representation that we risk if we don’t count them,” he added.