Local officials are scrambling to prepare Santa Barbara County for the 23rd U.S. Census, which will commence on April 1.
“Ten questions in 10 minutes” is all the U.S. Census Bureau asks this year, as it distributes what is predicted to be the shortest census form in history. Despite its brevity, community and local government groups are struggling to encourage public participation in the collection of data, which takes place once every 10 years.
According to Omid Niroumandzadeh, housing coordinator of the Office of the Associated Students External Vice President of Local Affairs, getting an accurate count is critical.
“County funding is dependent on the count,” Niroumandzadeh said. “The more people respond, the more money the county receives [in federal funding and state grants].”
In addition to funding, political representation in Congress is determined by population numbers taken from the U.S. Census. According to Election Services data, California could potentially lose a congressional seat this year for the first time in its history.
Isla Vista is notorious for being difficult to count. UCSB Community Liaison Catherine Boyer said multiple factors are to blame for the challenges behind accumulating the data.
“Students are unfamiliar with the census,” Boyer said. ”The last census was taken a decade ago, and many UCSB students were in elementary school at the time and were not aware of this national effort to count the U.S. population.”
However, Boyer said uninformed students are not the only obstacle.
“Residents of Isla Vista who are not U.S. citizens may be cautious about admitting their residence status, [although] citizenship questions are not asked on the census form,” Boyer said. “The law states that census information is kept confidential for a period of 74 years.”
Concerned UCSB and Isla Vista residents can attend informational meetings every Thursday from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. at the Student Resource Building’s first floor conference room.