Pasadena: Census Outreach Takes A Digital Approach
On a cloudy Friday afternoon in Downtown Pasadena, what would usually be streets full of cars and people enjoying their nights out has now become a ghost town due to the events of the coronavirus pandemic. Streets are empty, restaurants are closed and events canceled. The coronavirus has altered the way we live and communicate. With the census being done during these unprecedented times, it has altered the way locals will complete it.
The Census Bureau has had a difficult time planning how field operation volunteers will go out into communities to promote completing the Census. Before the stay-at-home orders were set in place in March, Pasadena had planned to host multiple census related events to promote locals to complete the census but with those being canceled, the Bureau had to find different ways to promote the census.
“In-person activities, including all interaction with the public, enumeration, office work and processing activities, will incorporate the most current guidance to promote the health and safety of staff and the public,” the Bureau said in a statement on April 13th in regards to Census outreach programs. As a result, outreach in Pasadena has had to make a transition in how to get the word out. This has resulted in Pasadena taking a digital approach through social media in hopes for locals to complete the census.
Through commercials on TV, billboards on freeways, and local officials like Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, the census has been promoting people around the country to be counted. In Pasadena, outreach programs have been advised to promote the census through social media websites like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
April 1 was officially Census Day, where a majority of the country had been tasked to complete and turn in their census. According to census data, as of April 26, Pasadena has underperformed in self-response rates with only 39.5% of Pasadena reporting, compared to 66.5% in 2010.
“I’ve seen ads on the TV and online about completing the census,” local Pasadena resident Marco Rabottini said. “But with the virus, people are probably going to be more concerned about getting supplies from the store and staying healthy rather than remembering to fill out the census.”
Because self-response rates are so low, outreach programs in Pasadena already had their hands full going door-to-door to help locals fill out the census. But the Coronavirus has halted those plans. With the census primarily going digital this year, there are three ways to complete the census: on the Internet, by calling in, or by mailing it in. One problem that could arise from the census going digital is for older populations who may not understand how to fill out or find the Census online. A recent U.S. Census Bureau survey found that 56% of people in America who are 65 and older are not comfortable with the prospect of an online response due to concerns ranging from privacy and cybersecurity to lack of experience filling out forms on the Internet.
Part of the outreach attempt was supposed to be kiosks that were going to be located at public libraries around the city for locals to complete the census. This could have helped the older population fill the census out. However, with libraries closed as part of the stay-at-home order, this is no longer possible.
“I work right next to the Library and it’s where I voted during the Primary,” Pasadena Resident Mehran Rahman said. “I was going to fill out the census there but now that I can't, I’ll probably mail it in.”
According to the city of Pasadena, after the 2010 census, Pasadena received more than $400 million in federal funding for schools, transportation, housing, and health programs. It’s essential that everyone fill out the census as the results help determine federal funding, how many seats in the U.S. House of Representatives your state will receive to represent you and to draw congressional and state legislative districts. The events of the coronavirus have halted any plans for outreach programs to promote completing the census and it has shown with low response rates in the city of Pasadena. During these challenging times, it’s important that everyone fill out the census as everyone counts for a better future.