Los Angeles County residents are falling behind the rest of the state in responding to the 2020 census, leading county officials to remind everyone that responses drive funding for health care, schools and senior services, among other critical needs.
Los Angeles County is at risk of losing out on federal funding to respond to emergencies like COVID-19 and won't have the chance for a do-over for another decade, authorities warned.
The county is hoping for 100% participation. However, as of July 26, LA County's census response rate is 58.8%, significantly behind California's overall 63.8% response rate, according to tracking data on the federal website.
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California itself ranks 23rd among all U.S. states. Minnesota is number one, with a 71.9% response rate, while Alaska ranks last among the states at 49%. Only 26.7% of residents living in Puerto Rico have completed the census.
"To help fight COVID-19, we not only need people to wear a face covering and maintain physical distancing -- they should also make sure they are counted in the census,'' said county Department of Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer. "Not completing the census could deprive L.A. County of the very resources we need to fight the pandemic and other diseases that have life-or-death consequences in our community. It takes only 10 minutes to fill out the census, and you can do it right from home on your computer or phone."
The short list of census questions can be completed online at my2020census.org, by phone at 844-330-2020 or by mail. Residents can find helpful information in 16 languages at census.lacounty.gov and the U.S. 2020 Census website at www.2020census.gov offers information in 59 languages.
As part of the county's campaign to make sure everyone understands how important the census is, informational posters and flyers have gone up at COVID-19 testing sites.
"We're happy that residents taking advantage of our expanding network of community-based COVID-19 testing sites will also be able to learn how important the census is to all of us in L.A. County," county Health Services Director Dr. Christina Ghaly said. "Filling out the census means we can all contribute to our communities' future health and resilience."
Areas in Los Angeles County that have the lowest response rates to the 2020 Census also have some of the highest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases, which may complicate the county's efforts to increase responses, according to a UCLA study.
The last day for households to respond online, by phone or mail is Oct. 31. Completing the census is private. Responses are protected by federal law and cannot be shared with any other government agencies or other entities,
including your landlord.
In addition to driving the allocation of federal dollars to state and local communities for the next 10 years, census results will also be used to determine the number of seats each state holds in Congress.
Local government officials use the census data to plan new schools and hospitals, and businesses rely on it in deciding where to locate facilities and jobs.
"Not completing the census is like throwing away money that we desperately need to protect the health and well-being of our communities and families," Ferrer said.