Opinion: Now more than ever, it’s time to be counted - San Mateo Daily Journal

Monday, March 30, 2020

Now more than ever, it’s time to be counted

The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically upended all of our lives, and sometimes it can feel like everything is out of our control. But in this very unique moment, every household in San Mateo County has the ability to generate tens of thousands of dollars for your family, and your community, by filling out the 2020 census.

If anything, the COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the importance of achieving a complete census count. Census results are used to distribute hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funds for essential programs and services that will be more important than ever in a post COVID-19 world, including job and child care assistance for needy families, unemployment insurance, and emergency food and shelter programs.

Our ability to recover from the COVID-19 outbreak and to prepare and respond to future disasters is dependent on accurate data from the 2020 census. An undercount could cost San Mateo County billions of dollars over the next decade, short-changing our families and our communities at a time when we need those resources the most. In a high-cost region like ours, this will negatively impact our vulnerable populations the most.

We need everyone to take this opportunity while sheltering at home to fill out the census.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, San Mateo County census officials have had to cancel promotional events and door-to-door grassroots canvassing, turning instead to alternative outreach strategies including online outreach, phone banking and strategic efforts to reach hard-to-count populations where essential services are being provided.

Even before the COVID-19 outbreak there were real operational challenges. For one, the census is being conducted primarily online for the first time. Even in Silicon Valley, many communities lack reliable Internet access. And while our diversity is usually our strength, the census is only being offered in English and a dozen non-English languages — and that’s if you fill out the census online or by phone. The paper form will only be available in English and Spanish.

The good news is that filling out the census has never been easier. You can complete your census questionnaire online at my2020census.gov, or by calling (844) 330-2020. If you need help completing the census, call the San Mateo County Census Team at (650) 363-1800.

If ever there was a time to proactively participate in the census, it is now. Completing the census is one of the easiest ways you can support your community right now, and ensure San Mateo County has the resources we need in the years ahead.

These are trying times, but together we will get through this.

Marc Berman and Kevin Mullin are members of the California Assembly, representing districts 24 and 22, respectively. Berman in the chair of the Assembly Select Committee on the Census. Mullin is the speaker pro tem.