We’ve all been through so much during 2020. The coronavirus pandemic has changed life for all of us and, if you’re like me, it’s been hard to focus on anything else during the past few months.
As all of us have adjusted to so many new realities, there are many things in our lives that we’ve had to put on hold. Unfortunately, we are hearing from the U.S. Census Bureau that far too many of us have also put the 2020 Census on hold.
Currently, the 2020 Census response rate in California is just 65%. The response rate in West Hollywood is even lower, at just about 60%. That means four out of 10 people in West Hollywood still have not taken the Census.
The good news is that it’s not too late. I’m urging everyone in our community to take action — please take the 2020 Census! It’s quick, easy, and safe to take the Census from home in about five minutes at census.ca.gov. The Census Bureau has announced that it will count responses through Sept. 30. But don’t wait one more day — take it today!
The U.S. Census takes place every 10 years to count every person living in the United States. While it may not seem significant, the Census is extremely important for two specific reasons:
- 1) The federal government uses population data from the Census to allocate more than $600 billion to cities — and other local and regional governments, such as LA County — to support food, nutrition, and education programs; to provide assistance for seniors, families with children, and people with disabilities; and to ensure that low-income people get the medical care they rely upon.
- 2) The Census determines the apportionment of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and other electoral districts. Today, California has 53 seats in the House of Representatives, based on the population count from the last Census. If we don’t achieve a complete count for the 2020 Census, our state may lose representation in the federal government by losing Congressional seats, which would take us in the wrong direction.
As a community, West Hollywood must do everything we can to achieve a complete count. I’ve heard from some LGBTQ community members that they might be sitting out the Census because of the lack of LGBTQ inclusion in Census questions. To that, I say: I hear you and I share your disappointment. You’re right — we still have lots of work to do. The City of West Hollywood will continue to advocate for a fairer and more inclusive Census with specific questions about sexual orientation and gender identity that more fully capture information about people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, non-binary, queer, and more.
I’ve also heard concerns about residents who are undocumented or unsheltered not participating in the Census. The Census is meant to count every single person, regardless of a person’s immigration or housing status. While threats from the Trump Administration and an increase in immigration enforcement are legitimately concerning, the Census will not ask about immigration status or whether you are a U.S. citizen. This, coupled with strong confidentiality protections, will help to ensure that we can count undocumented community members safely. The 2020 Census has also worked out plans to count persons who are experiencing homelessness and staying in shelters by conducting in-person interviews or reviewing facility records; unsheltered people experiencing homelessness will be counted by having Census workers visit identified outdoor locations where people are known to sleep. COVID-19 delayed these plans, but Census takers are resuming this important work from Sept. 22-24. West Hollywood is a place where everyone belongs. We want everyone to be counted, so that we’re all represented and so the federal government can do its part to provide funding, services, and resources that create opportunities for our community members to thrive.
That work requires us to have more voices in the federal government that reflect our values in the discussions and decisions made in Congress. Sitting out the 2020 Census would lead to an “undercount” which would hurt our City during the next decade and would have negative impacts on our community. An undercount would result in reduced resources for West Hollywood and lower levels of funding that would make it even more challenging to meet our community’s needs at a time when the coronavirus pandemic is already posing enormous challenges.
We all count, and we must all be counted. Now is the time to act. Let’s pledge, as a community — each and every one of us — to get a complete count by September 30. I know that, together, we can make this happen.
If you haven’t yet done so, complete the 2020 Census online, by phone, or by mail. A Census ID is not required. Visit census.ca.gov to be counted.
Let’s also work to raise awareness and inspire action. Tell your friends, neighbors, and loved ones they count and must be counted and share in your social media! Learn more by visiting the city’s website at www.weho.org/census2020.
It will take all of us, but I know we can achieve a complete count in West Hollywood and safeguard the resources and representation we need for the next decade.