In response to yesterday’s unanticipated announcement that the 2020 United States Census (Census) data collection deadline will now be shortened by more than a month, to September 30, 2020, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas introduced an urgency motion at the Board of Supervisors meeting for immediate action to be taken to elevate the concerns of LA County to ensure a fair and accurate Census count.
Specifically, the motion directs the LA County Chief Executive Officer to send a 5-signature letter to the United State Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census (Bureau) and United States Congressional leadership expressing these concerns. It also directs County Counsel to monitor the Bureau’s guidance with data collection timelines and to file or join litigation in opposing the Bureau’s decision.
“One of the most important rights we have is our hard-won right to vote, a right integral to our democracy and directly related to the results of the Census. So we must make sure that we stand up for all to be counted,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “To be undercounted is to be underrepresented and to be underrepresented is to be under-funded—we cannot lose sight of what this means for LA County.”
On August 3rd, Bureau Director Steven Dillingham announced that the Census would conclude Non-Response Follow-Up (NRFU) and in-person interviews on September 30th, instead of October 31st. This announcement came as a shock to local governments as the October deadline set for data collection was determined in April 2020 by the Bureau. This date was previously extended due to the persistent challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the data collection period is now being shortened for reasons unknown.
A complete and accurate Census count is crucial to allocating over $675 billion in federal government resources for residents in the United States. LA County’s vast and diverse constituency has historically been difficult to measure with many hard-to-reach populations, including people experiencing homelessness. Therefore, prudent action must be taken to ensure all residents are equally represented in all levels of government, which also impacts the adjustment of electoral districts.
“The County of Los Angeles is one of the hardest-to-count areas in the United States and we need to ensure that all of our residents are counted in the 2020 Census. Our diverse community deserves an accurate count to improve the quality of life for all residents,” said Koreatown Youth and Community Center Executive Director Johng Ho Song.
“When it comes to the Census, South LA’s numbers are extremely important to the County. The County of Los Angeles’s count is extremely important for the State of CA. When LA goes undercounted, the entire state loses—funding, representation and resources,” added Community Coalition President and CEO Alberto Retana. “That is why Community Coalition has been working so hard to encourage residents to participate in the 2020 Census. It gives us the chance to strengthen our public health infrastructure, the lack of which is being exposed by COVID-19 right now. Taking the Census is another way we can step up for each other, and our communities, during this pandemic.”
This shortened Census timeline follows a recent presidential memorandum excluding non-citizens from Census allotment, presenting more barriers for the fair allocation and equitable representation for Angelenos and United States residents.