By Ashley Orona
HUNTINGTON PARK — City leaders here are taking many steps to encourage residents to complete U.S. Census forms before the Sept. 30 deadline.
The city has a kiosk available at City Hall every Monday and Tuesday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. for residents who might not have internet or want to fill out the form in person.
The city is also doing daily countdowns on their its media pages reminding people of the Sept. 30 deadline. Residents who have completed the census can also win a $50 gift card to Food4Less.
The city also hosted a car caravan Aug. 26 in collaboration with Latino Equality Alliance, a nonprofit that advocates for the Latino LGBTQ+ community. Beginning at City Hall, the caravan drove down streets identified as having the lowest response rates in the city, with city leaders giving speeches about the importance of filling out census forms.
There were also three different locations throughout the city that residents could go to complete the census with the help of someone during the caravan.
Huntington Park has the second lowest census response rate in Southeast Los Angeles. City leaders are concerned that COVID-19 and the recent decision by the Census Bureau to end the census count a month early will result in an inaccurate count of Huntington Park.
“When we’ve spoken to people, the main reason they haven’t [completed] the census is because they tell us oh well you know we’re just used to people coming to our house and they fill it out for us,” said Paulina Velasco, a spokesperson for the city. “Because of COVID [however] it wasn’t until a week ago that we had census takers in the neighborhoods.”
The U.S. Census Bureau delayed some of its field operations because of the COVID-19 pandemic in order to protect the health and safety of staff and the public. Field operations were suspended from mid-March to May, also delaying the training of census takers who go to people’s homes and help them complete the forms.
Census takers began door-to-door visits the week of Aug. 11 to follow up with households nationwide that have not yet responded. The Census Bureau estimates it will need to visit about 56 million addresses in person.
The Census Bureau has identified many communities in Southeast Los Angeles that need increased census outreach. People in this region are often foreign born, have less than a high school degree and tend to be renters and belong to limited English-speaking households.
“Last time we did this similar effort the response rate went up by 1%,” Velasco said. “So what we’re trying to do is make sure that in the next 30 days we are able to maximize our participation for residents.”
The Census Bureau announced that both self-response and field data collection will end by Sept. 30, a month earlier than previously proposed. City leaders are concerned this will not be enough time to outreach to residents who have yet to be counted.