Census 2020 Town Hall discusses importance of filling out census

Lisi Ludwig/Staff

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During the Census 2020 Town Hall for Berkeley on Feb. 20, Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson discussed plans for the upcoming census for Berkeley residents.

More than 30 people attended the town hall, which was sponsored by a number of community organizations. The town hall featured an introduction about the importance of the census in helping the city receive funding and later opened up to questions.

The speakers included Carson, Councilmember Ben Bartlett, Councilmember Rigel Robinson and Mayor Jesse Arreguín’s spokesperson Stefan Elgstrand.

“The U.S. Census is probably the most important survey that you’ll be taking this decade,” Elgstrand said at the event. “And it’s really important for a variety of reasons: It’s helped make sure that we have equal fiscal representation on City Council to Congress, and it is very especially important for Congress because California might be at risk of losing a congressional seat, so we need to make sure everyone is counted.”

The survey will be launched mid-March and will count Berkeley residents as those who are living in the city April 1, according to Carson.

The census enables the city to receive money for various services including health care and education, according to Elgstrand. He added that each person counted qualifies the city for $1,000 each year in funding.

With estimates of 122,000 to 125,000 people who will be counted in Berkeley, the city may receive up to $125 million per year for funding, according to Elgstrand.

Some of the challenges facing Berkeley in the census include its ability to accurately count the student population, the homeless population and the senior population living in North Berkeley, according to Elgstrand.

“This one is a first-of-a-kind census in this country,” Carson said at the event. “It’s the first one that people will fill out their census by way of tablet, online, using their mobile or digital devices. Unfortunately, it will go into effect without a test.”

The information gathered through the census is encrypted and cannot be attributed to specific individuals, according to Sherry Johnson, a partnership specialist with the U.S. Census Bureau serving Alameda County. The data was stored in a database that only the Census Bureau can access.

Berkeley has always undercounted its residents in previous census counts, according to Shahidah Lacy, County of Alameda public safety associate. She added that it is the responsibility of the city to ensure that every resident is accounted for.

“Everybody should get counted. You may not live here permanently, but on April 1, if you’re in Berkeley, get counted,” said Berkeley resident Dale Smith. “Fill out the form, nine questions, it isn’t that hard.”

Contact Nina Narahari at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @ninanarahari_dc.