The county of Imperial, city of Calexico, Neighborhood House and other groups pushing participation in the 2020 Census count took to the streets of Calexico during a Census caravan on Sept. 22, 2020 that saw classic cars, lowriders, motorcyclists and others come out to drum up last-minute support for the count. | CALEXICO CHRONICLE PHOTO

Imperial County Reacts to Early Census Data

California loses Congressional seat for first time in 170 years

IMPERIAL COUNTY — The first 2020 Census results are in, and local officials react.

While California grew in population, it lost a Congressional seat for the first time in the state’s history. 

From 1910 to 2000 the state gained Congressional seats nearly every decade. However, it remained stagnant in the 2010 Census, and now the state has lost a seat.

Although representation is big, federal funding is bigger.

CALEXICO CHRONICLE/HOLTVILLE TRIBUNE GRAPHIC

The dollar allocations are incredibly important, because “every little bit counts, especially in Calexico, and Imperial County. Every dollar is in great need,” said Richard Ortega, executive director of Neighborhood House in Calexico, adding that it helps with city and county services, school funding, affordable housing, health services for people, unemployment benefits and more. “Every little bit helps in having an impact on people.”

Ortega led the grassroots efforts on the behalf of the city of Calexico to get its residents counted.

Local-level data won’t be released for some time. The numbers released so far are tied to apportionment, or federal representation with the big population figures on the national and state level.

Texas gained two more congressional seats, while Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina, and Oregon gained one seat each.

Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin also lost Congressional seats.

“Although California did experience some growth, the growth was slow,” said Imperial County Intergovernmental Relations Director Rebecca Terrazas-Baxter. “We’re still the most populous state, but our growth was less and slower than other competing states, like Texas and Florida which is why they gained two and one seats, respectively.

“Now that we know what the congressional seat number is, they will begin the redistricting commission statewide to determine how that is going to impact the state as far as where are we losing that one seat and how that congressional district is going to be broken up into other districts.”

It’s unclear, though, how it will impact federal and state funding, Terrazas-Baxter said. 

“We won’t know until we get the specific numbers for the counties in September,” she said. “Keep in mind on the funding side, when it comes to federal and state money, it’s more about population, and our population didn’t go down. It’s just, we lost a congressional seat. It shouldn’t impact our funding too much.”

More detailed figures will be released later this year. Those numbers will include populations by race, Hispanic origin, gender, and housing at different geographic levels.

While it won’t be clear what Calexico’s numbers are yet, it’s a particular challenge getting people counted in Calexico and Imperial County, Ortega said. There’s a lot of cross dependency along the border, and that sometimes creates difficulty in counting people. 

“And people have always been concerned about people calling them up and coming to their door,” he said, adding that’s why the Census Bureau partners with local, grassroots organizations like Neighborhood House in Calexico. It’s all about getting people to feel at ease participating. 

What it comes down to, he said, is the amount of funding the area can get.

“It all comes down to the amount of funds we’re able to receive,” he said. “Everything works on the formula, how much Calexico will receive in terms of federal funds.”

U.S. population growth slowed to the lowest rate since the Great Depression, according to the Associated Press. 

Experts say the sluggish growth shows a combination of an aging population, slowing immigration and the scar of the Great Recession more than a decade ago, which led many young adults to delay marriage and families. 

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