Lawmakers urge census participation

In a teleconference held Tuesday, National City Mayor Alejandra Sotelo-Solis, along with 80th District Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez put out a call to action encouraging all residents, including non-citizens to participate in the 2020 Census count.

“The census is a national headcount done every 10 years, mandated by the constitution.

Why is it important to National City?” Sotelo-Solis asked. Gonzalez explained the count goes toward determining how many people live in an area and ensures that every district gets their fair square of federal funding.

According to Sotelo-Solis, 2020 marks the first year the questionnaire is available online in 12 languages at as well as by phone at (800) 923-8282 and through the paper questionnaire in English or Spanish.

Regional Census Campaign Manager Blanca Romero said the current COVID-19 pandemic prompted the Census Bureau to extend the original deadline from July 31 to August 15, allowing residents more time to self-respond.

“We want everyone to be counted,” Romero said.

Gonzales explained the census is about gathering numbers on how many people live in an area:

“That includes anyone. You don’t have to be a citizen, you don’t have to be a legal resident.

In fact, we need every person living in a household whether they are documented or not to be counted… it determines how much money we have coming back to National City.”

Gonzalez also said residents need to make sure friends and family are participating in the census.

“Tell them there is no way this will be used for immigration purposes but this ensures we have the most amount of money for our infrastructure and schools, and that we can continue to grow with opportunities for everybody. That’s the message we have from Sacramento. Rest assured, it is more dangerous to have people come to your door later on if you don’t fill this out,” Gonzales said.

United Way CEO Nancy Sasaki said the count is especially important for under-represented groups.

“Immigrants, refugees, children under the age of five, the LGBTQ community, and more- there are about 15 groups that are hard to count. Specific to National City, we have nine census tracts with about 44,000 people that are considered hard to count,” Sasaki said.

According to the census bureau, a tract usually includes between 1,200 and 8,000 residents.

Sasaki said those numbers can affect healthcare funding, public transportation dollars, and budgeting for street repair.

According to the countmein2020 website, census data is used to distribute over $1.5 trillion annually, nationwide.

National City Chamber of Commerce CEO Jacqueline Reynoso said businesses rely heavily on the demographic information that is submitted with the census.

“That is a really important point because no other federal office reproduces this demographic information,” Reynoso said.

The business leader offered a recent Amazon headquarters addition as an example where census numbers were used to determine local concentration of available workers and typical level of education in an area.

“It can affect what you see on the shelves at Target, what home developers use, small business loans, medicare funding— there’s over $800 billion in business dollars allocated based on the federal census,” Reynoso said.

Reynoso said the Chamber is encouraging local businesses to share in spreading the word to residents that census numbers are currently being gathered.

In a follow-up phone call, Sotelo-Solis said a planned Census kickoff event originally scheduled for March 29 prior to the COVID-19 outbreak would have seen local elected officials and other guests provide information to the community emphasizing the importance of reaching marginalized groups.

“National City as a whole is considered hard to count, plus we know elders and young people under the age of five are hard to count, so it is like we have marginalized groups within an already tough to reach community. Originally, we had planned for a community-style kickoff event at the library with cake, like a celebration with a theme of challenging the community to participate in the census. With COVID, that event had to be canceled,” Sotelo-Solis said.

The mayor said future outreach initiatives are being planned that include reaching out to students through local principals and social media outreach campaigns.

“Open businesses can put signs at every door and counter, there are also digital pieces that can be downloaded from the Chamber of Commerce website which businesses can add to their websites and social media pages,” Reynoso said.

Sotelo-Solis wrapped up the teleconference by encouraging members of the public to email a photo or tag #nationalcitycounts and #nationalcitycuenta on social media as a fun way to show they completed their census questionnaire.

“National City counts. We want you to take on this challenge, from April 1 to April 30. Show us you submitted the census, let us know you completed it. You can even do it in pajamas,” Sotelo-Solis said.