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2020 Census challenges and successes

July 30, 2020

Fernando Barreto, Community Engagement Manager
Fernando Barreto, Canal Alliance Community Engagement Manager

How has COVID-19 impacted Canal Alliance’s approach to Census outreach? 

Fernando Barreto: Initially, most of our plans were designed to do in-person outreach and support to Canal and San Rafael residents. Since the Shelter-in-Place Order, we could no longer do that, so it required tons of creativity, tons of understanding and tons of patience and thoughtfulness about all the struggles our community was and is currently experiencing.  

Our challenge was, how can we highlight the importance for each one of us to be counted in the 2020 Census when our attention had been completely diverted to COVID-19. There was a lot of need in the community, there was a lot of fear and uncertainty and responding to the census was definitely not on the radar of our community. There was a much bigger priority at a hand. People were told to stay home to prevent the spread of this virus and if they’re not working or become sick, who’s going to pay rent, who’s going to pay their food?

So that required us to rethink our Census outreach strategy and understand the resources we had at hand because lack of funding has been a challenge for us, we’re only a two-person team. I’ve been doing Census outreach at the community level and my colleague, Stephanie McNally has been doing Census outreach at the county level.  

While social media has definitely been our main tool to reach out to our community, we have been lucky to work with other organizations to promote the Census. We partnered with the Census Bureau on April 1st which was National Census Day.  

Canal Alliance was also the leader agency in the Bay Area celebrating a local Census Day: The Latino Census Day in San Rafael which was May 28th. We asked local leaders and elected officials to help us create messages in Spanish about the importance of each one of us to be counted in the Census.  

And we saw a good increase in the response rate at that time. People saw our online messaging and responded positively. Nonetheless, we got stuck in the response rate, we were not moving forward, and so we analyzed our data to try to understand why that was. 

We saw that there was room to improve our messaging and reach out to folks that maybe aren’t active on social media. We started sending text messages to the community and got a group of bilingual volunteers who make phone calls to individuals in San Rafael through a service that the State of California and the United Way Bay Area shared with us, called PDI, which gave us access to political and consumer data. 

In addition, we partnered with another group of volunteers from the community called ‘Voces del Canal’ who started making phone calls to Canal residents. And so, using the power of cultural connection we have relied on ‘Voces del Canal’ as trusted Census ambassadors to encourage community members to respond to the census. 

Despite COVID-19 and the limitations we have faced, we also partnered with Parent Services Project, to offer phone assistance to help individuals fill out the Census. If individuals need help filling out the Census, please give us a call at 415-306-0452 and someone from our team will be sure to help you and everyone in your household get counted in the Census. 

It takes just 10 minutes to make a 10-year impact in your community. Your community’s needs deserve to be heard. That starts with getting counted in the 2020 Census. 

Your response brings resources and representation to your community for the next decade. Between August and October, census takers will visit households that have not yet completed the 2020 Census. If you prefer to self-respond complete the census today in one of 3 ways:

  1. Online at My2020census.gov
  2. By phone at 844-330-2020 in English and 844-468-2020 in Spanish
  3. By mail with the form that was delivered to your home (the Census Bureau will not send them by request)

Things to know about census takers when they visit your home:

They must carry a photo ID badge with a U.S. Department of Commerce watermark and expiration date. They will never ask you about your finances, citizenship or immigration status, or social security number. It is against the law for them to share your answers with anyone, including your landlord, employer, police, or any other government agency. You can verify a census worker’s identity by calling the regional Census office: 213-314-6500. For more information go to the Census Bureau webpage on Census Takers in Your Neighborhood

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