Federal government allocates $500M to US Census outreach program

Alexandra Zhu/Staff

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The federal government has budgeted $500 million for its integrated communications campaign, or outreach program, for the U.S. 2020 Census.

The outreach program looks to get more college students to participate in the census count this year. Federal government funding such as the Pell Grant and financial aid for college students directly depends on the number of people counted in the census, according to ASUC External Affairs Vice President Census Committee director Naomi Garcia.

“During the 2017-2018 school year alone, $43 million in Pell Grants helped over 8,000 Berkeley students pay their tuition,” Garcia said in an email. “27% of Berkeley students are Pell Grant recipients, meaning the Census is incredibly important when it comes to college affordability and accessibility.”

According to U.S. Census Bureau spokesperson Joshua Green, the census has a federal budget of $7 billion and aims to count every person living in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and all U.S. territories. Each home will receive the questionnaire either online, by phone or by mail, according to the U.S. Census website.

Green added that because college students are highly mobile, they are one of the hardest populations to count. He noted that students should count themselves where they “sleep most of the time,” which for many is in their college town, however, students living on campus will be counted by the university.

“With billions of dollars in federal funding on the line, the campaign has assembled a historically diverse coalition comprising hundreds of partner organizations to help reach the hardest-to-count populations in California,” said California census department spokesperson Diana Crofts-Pelayo in an email.

The California Census 2020 Campaign expects to “effectively” educate and motivate students to participate before the April 1 observation date, according to Crofts-Pelayo. She added that the outreach campaigns will feature data-based approaches and innovative tools, such as digital and social media content, to promote participation.

California is considered the “hardest-to-count” state in the nation because of its large populations of immigrants, renters, individuals living in homes without internet access and people living close to or below the poverty line, according to Crofts‒Pelayo.

With the COVID-19 outbreak in the Bay Area, Garcia said she hopes UC Berkeley students will take the census with their Berkeley addresses regardless of their location during in-person class cancellations. She noted that she hopes the deadline will be extended because of the enumerators’ inability to go door-to-door “safely.”

“A complete and accurate Census count means more funding for local communities, fair representation in Congress, and federal money for student loans and investment in higher education, among many other impacts,” said University Office of the President spokesperson Sarah McBride in an email.

Contact Tate Coan at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @tatecoan.