The U.S. Census claims that the 2010 questionnaire is one of the shortest ever- 10 questions they say should take 10 minutes. Sounds simple and straightforward, but according to many community leaders around LA County, the mid-March roll out is a looming deadline with a daunting mission as they race to conduct outreach, education, and awareness that results in response.
Why is response important? Everyone is required by law to be counted, regardless of citizenship or residency status. The collective answers will be part of the most important information gathered in a decade. They will affect some of the most significant decisions that impact you - political representation, billions of dollars in federal aid for infrastructure and important services such as safety, health and education.
This is the biggest, once-in-a-decade specialized outreach challenge in terms of numbers, languages and cultural familiarity. About 12 percent of the country’s population lives in the Golden State, with an estimated four percent in LA County. Ten years ago, California was able to outpace the entire nation in Census response rates. Mirroring the economy, the situation is drastically different in 2010 and local leaders fear that a successful game plan alone is not enough. Add to these unique and critical challenges - reduced budgets and late funding.
The drop in funding is staggering. Ten years ago, the state gave $24.7 million toward Census outreach. This year… $2 million. Some of the current resources include $9 million in private funding for grass-roots outreach efforts and bilingual materials. Many believe this may not adequately cover California’s population complex variables, including 22 percent of the country’s “Hard to Count” (HTC) communities. Los Angeles has been identified as the country’s top region in the country with an estimated 4.4 million HTC population- nearly half of LA county’s estimated population.
To make matters worse, the Census Bureau was criticized for its costly Super Bowl ads and a recent federal audit showed that it wasted about $4.5 million last year on training temporary employees, who worked one day or less.
Critics say the wasted budget could have been better allocated toward ethnic outreach. Community-based organizers know the next couple of weeks are crucial to implement a tailored, personalized approach for Census 2010.