Everyone counts, the U.S. Census Bureau reminds all residents, but only if everybody is counted and the El Centro Community Services Department is leading efforts to tally all people living in the city.
The official Census Day is April 1 but the
count flanks that date by months before and after.
For local communities among the most
critical reasons for residents to complete the survey is the count will be tied
to billions in federal funding nationwide over the next decade. The Census also
helps determine the boundaries of legislative districts.
“So, how many people are here will
determine allocations for parks, roads, water and wastewater facilities we ‘ve
come to rely upon,” said Adriana Nava, Community Services executive
Since spring of 2019 when plans for the Census
were first formulated outreach efforts have accelerated.
The next big event is a Census booth at
the Spring Fling and a Flick scheduled for March 20 from 6-10 p.m. at Bucklin
Park, Nava said.
“We’re showing Frozen II since it
attracts kids and families,” she said. “Plus, it’s at Bucklin Park.
It’s at the heart of the city and it’s also considered a hard-to-count
The event will include free drawing
tickets for a 40-inch television and other prizes. The federal government
provided California funding for Census outreach that in turn allocated $45,000
to El Centro. These resources will be used for informational kiosks at public
“For every person not counted, it is
seen as a loss of $2,000 per year for the next decade,” Nava cautioned.
“We’ve (city and county Census
outreach) participated in the El Centro Christmas Parade, Christmas in a Small
Town (Imperial) and the Calexico Christmas parade,” Nava explained.
“We’re getting help from our ‘Census Champions,’ elected officials such as
(county) District 2 Supervisor Luis Plancarte, El Centro Council Member Tomas
Oliva and Imperial Mayor Darrell Pechtl and County Deputy Executive Officer
Esperanza Colio Warren.”
County and Cities Collaborate
Colio Warren is the lead person for the
county count committee and works with county Intergovernmental Relations
Director Rebecca Terrazas-Baxter and Public Information Officer Linsey Dale to
devise strategies for hard-to-count areas.
“It is estimated that in Winterhaven,
including the Quechan Tribe population, three quarters may be undercounted in
the upcoming census,” Colio Warren said.
Part of the strategic plan includes making
public kiosks a critical tool to help residents preview and complete the Census
survey. The kiosks are accessible computer terminals that will be set up in
communal spaces in El Centro such as the libraries at 1140 N. Imperial Ave. and
375 S. First St., as well as the Adult Center at 385 S. First.
Local officials are hoping to have the
kiosks installed at least a month in advance of the April 1 census, and remain
in place for a month afterward, Colio Warren said. Volunteers will staff the
kiosks to assist residents who might have difficulty completing the census
questionnaire, she added.
“We’re focusing on safe and secure
access at our kiosks and at the events where we participate,” said Nava.
“At the Adult Center we’ll do a ‘Saint Census Day’ on March 17.”
The hard-to-count are the reason Census
outreach is focusing on certain populations, Nava explained. These include the
lower income, non-English speakers, the unemployed, those lacking Internet
access and children under five.
“Our job is to go looking for them
and not expect then to come to us,” said Nava. “We accomplish this by
renting a booth at all these civic events.”
County Susceptible to Undercount
Imperial County historically has had the
highest nonresponse rate in all of California, noted Colio Warren.
“We have ways to reach the HTC,” she
said. “We contracted with nonprofits such as Civico del Valle,
Neighborhood House and the LGBT Center. It’s not easy getting volunteers to go
to Palo Verde, over an hour from El Centro.”
In addition, volunteers canvass by
knocking on doors and explaining the importance of the Census.
The damage from an undercount that costs
the area funding was outlined by both Nava and Colio Warren.
With a project underway to extend Imperial
Avenue south of Interstate 8, Nava said the city will need funding for the
infrastructure—streets, electricity, water and sewer service–to accommodate
new housing and businesses.
As a grant writer, Colio Warren explained
she first looks at the demographics of a Census tract to learn who is eligible
for a particular program.
“Say I’m applying for a senior
program,” she said. “I need to know the population of those certain
areas and the income of groups to make sure we qualify for the grant. I also
need to identify the need for this specific grant.”
She added, “There’s so many different
programs. We have after-school groups, subsidized housing needs, community
centers for different age groups. These are just some of the diverse examples
of what we need to maintain an improving quality of life.”