Los Angeles

Fears of Census Undercount Could Have Lasting Impact

Ignore that knock at your door, or text message, and you could risk losing money for schools, services and representation in the government.

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Even though it's illegal to share any information you give the census, organizers say there are fear and distrust of the government and that worries census workers who say their time to convince people to respond has been cut short so they are working double-time to get the word out.

"There is a sense from people who don't really trust the government," said Oscar Cisco, field organizer of the census program with the non-profit organization Council of Mexican Federations.

NBC4's I-Team found that Huntington Park sits currently at a 58% response rate -- that's 12% less than during the last census. Los Angeles County is at 63%, and California overall is just a bit higher at 67.9%.

Other areas that showed low census response rates include Willowbrook and Watts -- both less than 45%.

To find out how your neighborhood is doing, check out an interactive map here or scroll below.

"Many circumstances and many challenges have contributed to our numbers being where they are right now including COVID, including the economic downturn including just various challenges that a lot of these community-based organizations on the ground have been experiencing," said Stephania Ramirez with the California Census.


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Ramirez adds that a shortened timeline for in-person counting ordered by the Trump administration is adding even more pressure, especially in densely populated areas.

"It's about money and it's about power. You know at stake, power potentially two congressional seats for California. Money, we're talking millions and millions of resources," Ramirez said.

The impact is widespread, from federal programs for WIC and EBT to school lunches and fixing highways. Recently, a judge ruled on legal action supported by L.A.'s city attorney to keep the count going. Another hearing is set for Septemeber 2020. Time is of the essence.

In the meantime, volunteers continue hanging reminders on doors, and Cisco says he will keep talking to people and debunking myths.

"A lot of people believe because they are renting that they don't need to do it because their landlord will do it, but that's not the case," Cisco points out. "Equality begins with acknowledging that we are here in this country. It's the first step in the right direction."

For more information on how you can respond to the 2020 Census, click here.

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