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U.S. Census deadline nears responses

Billions of dollars in federal aid – along with political clout – could be flying out California’s proverbial door unless people fill out their 2020 U.S. Census materials. 

Residents have until April 1 to complete forms and mail them in. For the first time, the process also can be done online or by phone, in addition to the traditional through-the-mail route.

Also changing for the first time: online and “peer-to-peer” efforts by the Santa Clara County Office of the Census to follow up on people completing their forms. These options substitute for the in-person field representatives who normally would follow up with door-to-door canvassing.

“Our goal is to prevent the spread of coronavirus while still counting every person,” said Cindy Chavez, president of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors.

In a Monday briefing, Chavez noted the in-person work could resume if the coronavirus crisis improves.

Los Altos resident Julie Cates, a Santa Clara County representative working on Census outreach, said the nationwide accounting of the population is used to determine federal funding for schools, health care, transportation and safety-net services. Approximately $675 billion is in play. It also determines state representation in Washington, D.C. – a lower count could mean loss of a congressional seat.

Local Assemblyman Marc Berman, who has led Census outreach efforts, said the state already pays more in taxes to the federal government than it receives back. That gap could widen with a low count.

“We need to get our fair share,” Cates said.

The Census comprises nine questions that officials estimate should take most people 10 minutes to complete. People are asked to give basic demographic information, such as the number of people living at a residence. Notices were mailed out March 12 and March 16.

Response rates compiled thus far show the county currently at 18.4%, ahead of the national average of 14.1%.

County officials Monday urged residents to sign up to be “Census Champions” to spread the word about participation.

To sign up, visit the county’s site at sccgov.org/census.

For more information, call 844-330-2020 or visit my2020Census.gov.

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