What is the Census and why is it important?

The Census Bureau is the federal government’s largest statistical agency dedicated to providing current facts and figures about America’s people, places and economy. The results of the census determines the number of seats for each state in the U.S. House of Representatives; are used to draw congressional and state legislative districts; and are used to distributed more than $675 billion in federal funds each year, of which California receives over $76 billion annually. Funding is directly distributed based on the Census data, which roughly equates to approximately $2,000 per resident.

Federal programs that allocate funds to California using Census data include: Section 8 Projects, Head Start, Foster Care, School Lunch, Highways, Medicare Part B, Women Infants and Children (WIC), Health Care Programs, Medi-Cal, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and more.

When is Census 2020?

The official Census Day is April 1, 2020. In March 2020, the U.S. Census Bureau will begin to mail letters to every household with information on how to complete the Census. In May 2020, U.S. Census field staff (called enumerators) will visit households who have not completed the Census.

Census 2020 – What to Expect

The response process for the 2020 Census will be a little different than it was during the 2010 Census. Every household will have the option of responding by mail or by phone, as in previous years, but households will also be able to respond online! In March 2020, almost all households will receive their census invitation in the mail:

  • 95% of households will receive their census invitation in the mail, which will provide information on how to respond.
  • About 5% of households will receive their invitation when a census taker drops it off. This may be because the homes have PO boxes or were recently affected by natural disasters and do not receive mail at their homes.
  • Less than 1% of households will be counted by a census taker instead of responding on their own. This happens in remote areas or areas that ask specifically to be counted in person, like select American Indian areas.

Census 2020 Canvassers in the Neighborhood

Through mid-October 2019, the U.S. Census Bureau will be conducting neighborhood address canvassing across the country. The Census Bureau has worked with regional offices to hire people from the community to visit neighborhoods and confirm the location of houses, apartments, shelters, and other places where people could live or stay.

Official Census employees can be recognized in the following ways:

  • They will have an official government badge with their name, a photo, Department of Commerce watermark, and expiration date.
  • They will carry an official Census Bureau bag and laptop with the Census Bureau logo.
  • They will provide you with a letter from the Census Bureau on official letterhead stating why they are visiting your residence.

Most changes to addresses will be verified by satellite images and not all neighborhoods will be visited by a Census Bureau representative. Community members can also confirm that the address canvasser visiting their home is an official employee by searching for their name in the Census Bureau staff search by using first or last name online on the Census website.

Santa Clara County Complete Count Committee

Over 120 representatives from more than 70 agencies are part of the County of Santa Clara Complete Count Committee (SC5). The current roster of SC5 participants includes leaders from government, health and education, the non-profit, faith-based, and private sectors to help facilitate key strategic relationships within County communities. A total of 10 Census subcommittees have been formed under the SC5 and include the following: Education, Health, Cities and Neighborhoods, LGTBQ+, Homeless and Unstably Housed, Immigrant Community/People with Language Barriers, Technology, Enumerator Recruitment, Women’s, Older Adults and People with Disabilities.

The U.S. Census Bureau, the State of California and efforts at the local government level are actively engaged and diligently working to address known challenges to ensure an accurate count. Part of these efforts include developing localized strategies, messaging, and tools to maximize opportunities to promote Census 2020.

Obstacles to overcome to ensure a Complete Count

  1. Inadequate Budget: The federal government has significantly underfunded the 2020 Census, compared to past Census. In 2020, more households will need to be counted with less resources, including fewer local Census offices, less field staff, and limited follow-up with non-responsive households.
  2. Digital Census: For the first time, the Census will be primarily online. This may decrease response rates due to worries about information security and privacy, and lack of access to internet and computers in certain hard-to-count communities.
  3. Government Mistrust: Fear and lack of trust in the federal government as well as questions about how the Census information may be used may also deter participation.
  4. Recruitment Challenges: Having Census Bureau workers who understand the different communities and how to best reach them is incredibly important for ensuring a full and accurate count. The nation’s strong economy, low unemployment rate and the recent federal shutdown are among some of the challenges to recruiting qualified bilingual Census Bureau workers.
  5. Language Accessibility: Although the online questionnaire and phone language assistance will be available in 12 different languages (Spanish, Chines, Vietnamese, Korean, Russian, Arabic, Tagalog, Polish, French, Haitian Creole, Portuguese, an-cl Japanese ); the paper-based Census survey will only be available in English and Spanish. The Bureau will provide written materials such as language guides, glossaries, etc. in 59 languages. The City of Milpitas will have provide the materials to our residents at all City facilities.

Get Involved

Help make Census 2020 successful! Volunteers are needed during the efforts to complete the Census 2020. To learn about volunteer opportunities, visit the County of Santa Clara website and sign up for updates using the sign up form. The U.S. Census Bureau is currently hiring individuals to help with their 2020 Census efforts. For a listing of these paid positions, visit the County of Santa Clara Office of the Census website

More Information

Visit the U.S. Census Bureau on FacebookTwitter, and YouTube, or visit their website. To learn more about the Census in Milpitas, contact the City Manager’s Office at (408) 586-3055.

Helpful links:

Community Outreach Toolkit

Census Partnerships: 2020 Census at a Glance

Fact Sheet: The 2020 Census and Confidentiality 

Census 101: What you Need to Know