Southern California counties lagging in 2020 US census count

As the Sept. 30 deadline nears, census field workers are knocking on the doors of homes that have not filled out a questionnaire on line or returned the paper form.
LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- From artful billboards to mini-parades of honking cars, stakeholders in the U.S. Census are sounding off to get everyone counted.

As the Sept. 30 deadline nears, census field workers are knocking on the doors of homes that have not filled out a questionnaire online or returned the paper form.

For anyone worried about scammers, the census field workers carry ID badges, computer bags and their questions are limited.

"We will never ask you for financial information, your social security number or any kind of political affiliation," says U.S. Census spokesperson Donald Bentz.

Latinos are a target. Many heard news months ago that citizenship would be a question. The Supreme Court struck that down but Latino advocates say suspicion lingers among undocumented residents. Add to that, many are front line workers impacted by COVID-19.

"Latinos are suffering from higher rates of COVID infection, higher rates of COVID deaths and more devastating economic consequences. So, trying to get to these families through these stresses and to tell them 'hey, we also need you to fill out this government form right now.' It's been very difficult," says Arturo Vargas of the National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO).

Among the lagging counties in the Southland, Los Angeles County is at 62%, Riverside County at 64.8% and San Bernardino County at 64.1%.

Within Los Angeles County there is a lag in Malibu and Beverly Hills, where residents may be living away during the pandemic. Low-income South Los Angeles is also behind.

That's a worry for stakeholders who depend on federal dollars. Besides determining California's representation in Congress, the numbers will decide how much the state gets for programs ranging from housing, to Head Start to healthcare.

"Health experts are using census data to respond to COVID-19. If there's an error in the data, there's an error in the decisions and planning that policy experts are making," says Vargas.

The warning is that undercounting anyone can hurt everyone.

California risks losing congressional seats, federal funding with new census
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California could lose one or more of its 53 congressional seats, plus billions in federal dollars, if it is undercounted in the latest federal census.

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