– By Lucy Loughridge, Student at St. Francis Parker  

In 1790, the first United States Census was taken nationwide. Since then, 22 federal censuses have been conducted, but this year marks a new change: the US Census Bureau has decided that the deadline for the 2020 Census responses be moved from October 31 to September 30, a month earlier than previously announced. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the shift is an effort to maximize accuracy and expedite the process.  

“It’s so important that the federal funds for certain resources, hospitals, or healthcare workers be allocated in a way where we can understand where the greater need is and distribute them accordingly,” says David Bennett, media specialist for the US Census Bureau in the San Diego region. “We inform the CDC and the healthcare workers in several different areas so it’s really important that the count is as accurate as possible this year.” 

With the distribution of over $675 billion annually being determined by the US Census, participation is vital. Whether it be for education, infrastructure, or healthcare, the first step in ensuring your community is given the resources it needs is completing the Census survey and that’s just one aspect. The number of seats in Congress is determined by the number of people in a state, so being undercounted could mean a lack of fair representation.  

“If you want your federal government to look like your local government and reflect who you are and what you are made of, you want to get counted,” Bennett says. 

In order to inform the public of the significance of completing the Census survey and the urgency of the accelerated deadline, the US Census Bureau has partnered with several organizations including Feeding San Diego. Alongside the work of school districts, community resource centers, and faith-based institutions, Feeding San Diego recognizes the importance of the Census and has been striving to get the word out to the community. 

“Feeding San Diego’s pantry and school distribution programs were excellent sites to do outreach,” says Carlos Carreon, partnership specialist for the US Census Bureau in the San Diego region. “As COVID-19 happened it became even more important to reach out to the sites that Feeding San Diego supports.” 

Bennett agrees, stating that a large percentage of the people that benefit from resources provided by Feeding San Diego could potentially benefit from Medicare, Medicaid, and other healthcare services that are funded and placed using data from the 2020 Census. The US Census Bureau has created 97 events to date around San Diego county supporting schools and rural communities. They continue to urge the public to recognize the impact the 2020 Census could have on their voice and overall quality of life and complete their survey by September 30 as opposed to October 31.   

“Under US code, your responses are protected,” Bennett says. “The Census is safe and important and simple. It’s just a win win win.”