Congresswoman Lois Capps and county officials spoke in Isla Vista Friday, urging locals to fill out their Census forms.
The event on Pardall Road was an attempt to improve the community’s exceptionally low participation in the federal headcount. Isla Vistans had returned only 40 percent of their census forms as of last Friday, the lowest rate in the entire county.
The census is conducted every 10 years, and the results are used to determine the distribution of federal funds and the number of representatives a state sends to Congress. Residents should have received the forms in the mail and have until till April 16 to mail it in. After that date, the Census Bureau will send workers door-to-door to count those that did not mail in the forms.
U.S. Census Bureau specialist Priscilla Heneley spoke at the event, explaining the difficulty of counting college students.
“We are in Isla Vista today because Isla Vista is one of the hardest to track votes in the county,” Heneley said. “We are here to help educate because it is important for our community. Historically, college students and young adults are the least knowledgeable because they may not remember the last census.”
Because the census determines the allocation of federal money, an inaccurate count may mean less funding will be allotted to communities like Isla Vista for public projects.
The census count in Isla Vista also affects UC Santa Barbara by directly influencing the amount of federal student grant money issued each year.
Third District Supervisor for Santa Barbara County Doreen Farr said Isla Vista was severely undercounted in the last census. Farr said Friday’s event was an attempt to solve local issues with federal money, explaining that an accurate census count would help match federal funding with local need.
“In the 2000 census, only 55 percent of the houses in Isla Vista turned in their census,” Farr said. “For 10 years we were 45 percent underfunded. Being counted equates to more funding and a better quality of life for everyone.”
Congresswoman Capps, the Democratic representative from Santa Barbara, said an accurate census count is also important for California overall.
“It is this count that determines how many seats we have in Congress,” Capps said. “We are right on the edge of losing our seats or keeping our seats in Congress. This is the first time we know we will not gain one and it is possible that we may lose some.”
April 16 is the deadline for citizens to mail in census forms. After that date, Capps said, census workers will go door-to-door to attempt to tally people who did not turn in their forms. Going door-to-door, she said, is exponentially more expensive.
“It costs $0.42 for every form filled out, and $57 for door-to-door,” Capps said. “It is very cost deficient when people do not fill it out the first time.”