Contra Costa County Wants Everyone Counted

By Michael Fitzgerald

Contra Costa County has created a public awareness campaign to ensure every resident is counted in the 2020 U.S. Census, which begins next April.

Supervisor and chair of the county board John Gioia says an accurate census account impacts how every Contra Costa resident is served and represented, which is why the county wants to make sure everyone is counted.

“We want to ensure a complete and accurate count so that both California and Contra Costa County receive our fair share of government resources,” he said.  

The kickoff event was held Tuesday at the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano Counties in Concord, drawing about 50 people. It included speeches by local officials, including Contra Costa Supervisor Diane Burgis, chair of the county’s “Complete Count Steering Committee.”

“This event begins our one-year countdown to Census Day,” she said.

April 1, 2020 is the official starting date for the U.S. Census Bureau’s count, but many households may hear from the bureau as early as next March.

“Preparations have been going on for a couple of years now, and I’m excited to kick off outreach activities at the local level to make sure Contra Costa is not shortchanged in much-needed federal and state resources and representation,” Burgis said.

The census determines how many representatives each state has in Congress and how federal funds are distributed to local, state and tribal governments annually.

An estimate by George Washington University says that California and local governments lose as much as $2,000 a year for each person not counted. The undercounting means less funding for libraries, schools, transportation and even food banks.

Burgis said the county is working on strategic plan to contact undercounted and hard-to-count communities. Those groups include children under 5-years-old, college students, low-income people, immigrant communities and people for whom English is a second language.

“We have 40 different languages spoken in Contra Costa County,” Burgis said.

She added that California has an estimated 1.3 million people who might not be counted without census takers and others making extra efforts to contact them.

“We have about 250,000 people in Contra Costa County to zero in on,” she said. “And if we undercount by just 5 percent, it could cost the county more than $1.1 billion over 10 years.”

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