IMPERIAL COUNTY — With much preparation still needed before the U.S. Census can start March 12, it was recently learned Imperial County qualified for an another $100,000 in state funding for outreach, a county official said.
That is in addition to
the initial $284,000 state grant announced in early 2019, said Esperanza Colio
Warren, deputy county executive officer.
“More efforts here are
needed, and they (the state) know we have gaps,” she
explained during a Feb. 25 interview.
Warren is directing the
Imperial County 2020 Census Complete Count Committee. It coordinates outreach
on the importance of participating in the Census.
Such efforts are underway
as hundreds of local workers canvass neighborhoods to let people know official “self-responding”
can begin March 12, Warren said.
That is when kiosks–a
laptop and at least one federal Census worker–will go up at 30 sites. They
will assist non-English speakers and those not comfortable with computers in
the self-reporting period of the count, which for the first time will be on the
Internet in addition to mail and telephone contacts, Warren added.
National Census Day is
April 1 but self-reported and “assisted” counting will be done through much of
March until April 30.
Where is the Money Going?
A first wave of funding arrived
to the county in the fall. Some of it is still being disbursed to cities and
nonprofit agencies are aiding in the education effort, but Warren said more
funds are needed because the county has so many areas historically hard to
count. The county is considered the most difficult to count in California.
Nearly all of Calexico
and central and eastern portions of El Centro and Brawley are some of the most
difficult to count census “tracts” in the state. However, there are rural areas
and smaller communities equally difficult to reach because of language
barriers, including Seeley, Heber, Palo Verde Valley in northeastern Imperial
County and Winterhaven in the east county, Warren added.
With some contracts still
being signed between the county and nonprofit agencies, Warren said there are more
than 20 entities and organizations getting funds to canvass and educate.
That includes committees
within the cities of Calexico, Brawley and El Centro, Warren added. Some of the money is going to
canvassing and some for translators/aides and equipment at the kiosks, she
Warren added 13 nonprofit
agencies are dedicated to unincorporated communities, including the Imperial
Valley LGBT Resource Center. It is getting paid $33,280 from the county for
efforts in Winterhaven, Palo Verde, Ocotillo, Niland and Salton Sea Beach.
The cities of Holtville,
Imperial and El Centro are getting their money directly and the funding is being
distributed by city government staffs. However, in communities with fewer
manpower resources, such as Calexico and Brawley, the county funded the efforts
of larger nonprofit subcontractors even though the cities arranged to use them.
These include Neighborhood House in Calexico and Comite Civico Del Valle for
Brawley, Calipatria and Westmorland, Warren said.
El Centro received
$45,471; Neighborhood House $40,025 on behalf of Calexico; and Comite Civico $24,500
on behalf of Brawley.
The county is using
$93,150 for unincorporated areas, with the biggest single awards going to Heber,
$27,520 mostly to Campesino Unidos Inc.; $16,740 to Seeley through Campesinos
Unidos; and $14,170 to Winterhaven by way of the LGBT Resource Center.
There were some immediate
details on how the monies are being spent. Many expenses during the canvassing
period are for educational materials and stipends for canvassers, Warren said.
Ricardo Ortega of
Calexico Neighborhood House has said his agency pays workers $4 per hour, which
he added is an amount allowed under the law for such work. Much of the other expenses
go toward flyer printing. Funds cannot be used for administrative overhead,
Ortega and Warren acknowledged.
Funds will also be used
for kiosk laptops, Ortega added, and Warren said Calexico will have three–one
each at the Camarena Memorial Library, Neighborhood House and the Calexico
Creativity is being
employed to maximize the count in some areas, officials noted. Because Winterhaven has a high number of
illiterate, cellular phones will be purchased so workers can aide in telephonic
In Palo Verde, with
limited Internet service, there will be giveaways of food and drinks to draw
people to that community’s only kiosk at the county Fire Department substation,
which has reliable wi-fi, Warren explained.
One of the costliest days
will be March 12, she indicated, because of kick-off events. Teams will split
up to canvass some of the hardest-to-reach areas and let residents know to visit
kiosks for free hotdogs, for example, where other workers will be on site to
When Self-Reporting Ends, What Next?
The last day to
self-respond to the Census is April 30. Afterward, the U.S. Census Bureau make
home visits from May 9 to July 31.
That is where things traditionally
get tricky for Census officials who have not been able to reach everyone. This
is especially true in high-immigrant areas such as Imperial County due to
mistrust of government officials stemming from immigration status or language challenges.
It is hopes the outreach
campaign will mitigate some of those barriers, officials said.
Recently, some reportedly
ad-libbed ads have appeared on local radio in English and Spanish to get the
word out about participating in the count.
Although this newspaper
has been unable to get a script, at least one warned residents to voluntarily respond to the Census
to avoid Census Bureau officials knocking on their door later.
When asked about the ads
and whether the county committee or city subcommittees were involved Warren
said they were not but that she intends to look into the matter.
“I don’t want people
to be afraid; that’s not the idea,” she said.