Alethea Arguilez

Over the past year, preparation for the 2020 Census has been underway. The Census is an official count of the population across the United States and occurs only every 10 years and is scheduled for April 1, 2020.  There are multiple stages required to help ensure the census count is as accurate as possible.  The official census count is important because the official count directly impacts each state’s representation at the local, state and federal level. In addition, the census count also informs funding for federal programs like Special Education ($1.3 Billion), Head Start Preschool ($1.2 Billion), Section 8 Housing Vouchers ($3.5 Billion), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) ($7.2 Billion) and Medicaid ($55.5 Billion). In the 2016 fiscal year, California received $115,133,486,972 through 55 federal spending programs guided by data derived from the 2010 Census (1).

It’s important to remember – Being Counted Helps Young Children Thrive!

  • Stronger political representation: federal, state, county and school Board Districts
  • More funding for key children’s programs: more complete census data can increase funding for some programs (e.g. Medicaid, CHIP, foster care and CCBDG where funds are shared)
  • More equitable distribution of funds: when total funding is capped, Census data often determines who receives it (Title 1, Special Ed, CCDBG appropriations and Head Start expansion funds)
  • Stronger advocacy

Did you know that in 2010, California had the highest estimated rate of undercount of any state for children ages birth to 5 years of age? For every resident not counted in the 2010 census, California lost more than $2,000* in federal funding. The population of the state determines federal funding for important services that help children and families. If the population is undercounted it could impact the funding for schools, health services, childcare, emergency services, and other important programs. The state receives funding for programs like Medi-Cal, Women, Infants and Children (WIC), Head Start, and the National School Lunch Program and CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program). All these programs are beneficial to families with children and for every child that goes uncounted there is money lost. 

It’s important to know that the information you provide is confidential and cannot be shared or used against you in any way. The information is for statistical purposes only. Some people may have concerns that their privacy and security are at stake, but your information cannot be shared with immigration (ICE), law enforcement agencies, the IRS, the FBI, your landlord or anyone else and will not be used to determine your eligibility for government benefits. 

First 5’s local expertise and connections will help reach hard-to-count populations across the state, including those where language might otherwise be a barrier. First 5’s knowledge of community institutions and their vast array of trusted partners serving families with young children can be leveraged in every corner of the state to ensure that messaging about Census 2020 reaches all families. Below are a few ways First 5 California, the Association and the local County Commissions will help with the 2020 census:

  • Each year, First 5 grants over $200 million to community-based organizations across the state, which provide an array of services and supports: newborn home visitation, family navigators, parent education, and family assistance in shelters and temporary housing, among others.
  • First 5 funds home visiting programs offered in 15 languages across 45 counties, including: Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin, Vietnamese, Mixteco, Tagalog, Khmer, Punjabi, Hmong, Arabic, Chaldean, Swahili, Somali, Russian, and English.
  • In partnership with Sesame Street, the First 5 Association launched the Care, Cope, Connect workbook to help families cope with increased community stress spurred by heightened fears of family separation. Across our statewide network, more than 30,000 bilingual workbooks were distributed to communities throughout California.
  • First 5 and our extended network have gained the trust of community members over the last two decades—the kind of trust that is essential for advancing the 2020 Census message. Our commissions will not only serve as connecting points for outreach specialists, enumerators, and others Census workers, but will be trusted messengers for conveying the importance of the decennial Census.

The process has been made very simple and you can fill out the census survey online, by phone or through the mail. We ask that you join us in getting the word out of how important the 2020 Census count is to our children and families we serve throughout San Diego County, the state of California and the United States as a whole. Thank you for your partnership and support on this critical effort – ensuring all our babies are counted!  


Alethea Arguilez
Executive Director
First 5 San Diego

* Calculated by dividing the total federal dollars that California receives by the total population of the state. Programs like Head Start would result in an average loss of $15,000/yr for 10 years per undercounted eligible child.

Important Census Resources