Rural areas need the census most

‘If you care about your community,’ just do it now!

By Marcy Axness, TME

The last day to complete the census is Wednesday, Sept. 30, and the stakes could not be higher for you and your neighbors.

“I believe that rural communities have the most to lose for every person who isn’t counted,” said Louis Medina of the Kern Community Foundation, a member of the Kern Complete Count Committee.

As of Tuesday, our Frazier Park census tract is not only behind California’s overall response rate—we’re way behind our own 2010 response rate!

“For everyone who is counted,” Medina explained, “that is roughly $20,000 in funding the community will receive over the next 10 years.”

Those dollars show up as roads, utilities and other infrastructure; plus public health resources, fire prevention, schools and libraries, Medina pointed out—“all these amenities that we can’t live without, right?”

Undercounted in 2010

For example, last year we learned that Prop. 68 grant funds for upgrading parks in California depended on population distribution counts, which come from census data.

As many as 20% of the people living in our rural communities may have been overlooked in the 2010 census, according to informal calculations by local realtors.

Journalists also believe there were undercounts in many rural California communities in the 2010 census.

“Kern County traditionally has always been an undercounted county,” Medina told us.

“And if you see lack in your community, part of that is attributable to an undercount.

“Don’t let your community stay bound to loss because you failed to fill out the census,” he urged.

A robust census count also means more representatives to advocate for our community’s interests in Sacramento and Washington, D.C.

Medina realizes some move to rural communities “to be off the grid, and to be left alone.” But he wants to remind everyone that identifying information cannot be shared by the census bureau with any other agency for 72 years, under penalty of law. “If you care about your community,” he said, “it’s your civic duty” to do the census.

Phone lines are open daily 4 a.m. to 11 p.m. PDT (English: 844.330.2020 or Spanish: 844.468.2020). Online, go to My2020census.gov.

–Patric Hedlund contributed to this story.

Photo captions:

Frazier Park Library’s ‘Mapping Our Melting Pot’ activity last spring invited residents to put a push-pin in the place of their family’s origin. Lexie Suorsa wasn’t sure, so she put a pin in Los Padres National Forest, where her family lives now. Her El Tejon Middle School 5th grade class was learning about the census.

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This is part of the September 25, 2020 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

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