2021 January WMNL: Census 2020 Continued
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In the fall of 2019, the Dolores Huerta Foundation (DHF) Civic Engagement Department launched our Census 2020 outreach campaign. DHF Organizers and volunteers participated in text and phone banking and Covid-safe door-to-door canvassing, in partnership with the Sierra Health Foundation and the Kern Complete Count Committee. Despite challenges ranging from fear tactics by the opposition, a worldwide pandemic, triple-digit heat, poor air quality caused by catastrophic fires, and a constantly changing deadline, DHF teams informed 73,776 hard-to-count community members about the importance of census participation. They obtained pledges to complete the census from 48,633 individuals and collected over 2,980 surveys at doors in Kern, Tulare, Fresno Counties and the Antelope Valley.
Our Census journey began over a year ago, with DHF collecting pledge cards from our Hard To Count community members at our many community & outreach events. The lines were drawn early, with an attempt to add the citizenship question to the Census survey stoking fears in our communities already facing the constant threat of getting separated from their family, getting detained in Detention Centers, or worse, under horrific conditions of detention camps. Cruelty & the dehumanization of our Latino & immigrant communities is very much the point. This attempt was clearly meant to instill fear and discourage many Latinos from participating in the Census, but we leaned into the thought “To Resist, You Must Exist” and to exist you have to get counted in the Census. The Census comes every 10 years, and determines where funding will go for generations to come, this administration by contrast, will only see four years.
The 2020 Census outreach we did in Kern, Tulare & Fresno county allowed us to reach the self-response rates of 2010 in Kern County thanks to Paola Fernandez and surpass the 2010 rate in Tulare & Fresno, Thanks to Angel Ruiz and Dayana Lopez, our Civic Engagement Coordinators and team leads in these counties. In Kern & Tulare we were able to both phonebank & do door-to-door canvassing, while in Fresno we stuck to just canvassing. At the beginning of the lockdown, we continued our Census outreach via phone banking into Tulare & Kern county, while also getting community members a DHF Resource Guide for those affected by the pandemic. While in the Central Valley we are used to bad air days, with climate change exacerbating and lengthening our wildfire season, we had an exceptionally high number of bad air days, combined with the sometimes triple-digit heat, causing us to cancel several walks (canvasses). We also prioritized safety and made sure to follow covid safety protocols and CDC guidelines: temperature checks at the door, face shields were available, new masks every day, encouraging hand washing and sanitizing our work stations between shifts. So what do you do when people are on lockdown during a pandemic, and may not want to come to their doors? You make them come out of their homes! The Census team got creative, hired DJ’s for a Census caravan, started giving away hand sanitizer and PPE to get folks to come and fill out their Census Survey. Despite these challenges, we contacted 73,776 hard to count community members and 48,633 pledged to get counted in the census.