Households across the country will start receiving 2020 census instructions in the mail this week. The census only happens once every ten years. But historically, many people in Monterey County don’t fill it out.
According to data from the last count, Monterey County is predicted to have a non-response rate of almost 28%. That means many areas are at extremely high risk or very high risk of not being counted.
Because federal funding is tied to these census counts, that means these areas risk losing thousands of dollars in funding for everything from schools to Medi-Cal.
The undercounted population is largely rural, immigrant or low income. And local census officials say the way you reach these communities matters. They’re using a “neighbor to neighbor” approach.
“If you have someone that looks like you, and that you know well in your community that's portraying this message, you'll be more likely to participate in the census," said Erika Matadamas, a program officer at The Community Foundation for Monterey County.
The Community Foundation for Monterey County has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to try to prevent an undercount.
The Trump administration tried to include a citizenship question on the 2020 census, but that was struck down by the courts.
“Even though the immigration question is not going to be included on it, we fear that the damage may have been... already been done,” Matadamas said.
She worries this will stop people from taking part. This year, the census will be online. That raises another challenge.
“That makes it hard for a lot of our rural communities that may not have access to digital broadband,” said Matadamas.
Still, she hopes the county’s grassroots approach will give people confidence to fill out the 2020 Census.