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Hard to count communities in Nevada County come together for census

FREED can help seniors who can’t fill out the census themselves by calling 530-477-3333

Nevada County‘s unique blend of demographics makes it hard to count.

The area is home to seniors, veterans, rural farm workers and native populations — all considered by the U.S. Census to be hard to count groups at risk of missing out on funding for essential community services.

For community groups across Nevada County, that loss of funding could be the difference in a senior being able to live out their life independently and with dignity. It could mean children are less prepared to start school without early education. Or it could decide whether a neighbor gets a meal to eat today.

With the census entirely online this year, the additional challenge of internet connectively could affect hard to count communities even more. For the past several months the county has worked with 211 Connecting Point to reach out to community organizations to ensure everyone is counted, but with the coronavirus pandemic eliminating group gatherings, their plans have had to change.

Earlier this month, the Board of Supervisors declared April 1 Census Day, with plans to drive up the census participation through pop-up events and kiosk drives where people could take the census throughout the county. Now Connecting Point communications manager Heather Heckler is encouraging people to share their census completion to their communities on Facebook.

“We would love to get people to take the census and share that it’s only nine questions and takes just five to 10 minutes,” Heckler said. “We really want to challenge our community to get it done that day.”

Need for accuracy

The county has been working with disability and aging resource center FREED to get the word out, as they are particularly impacted by the census.

“Both seniors and people with disabilities are part of those hard to count populations,” FREED Executive Director Ana Acton said. “Many of the services and programs that FREED provides are grant- or formula-driven, based on the population of the community.”

Acton said many services seniors need to age in place and continue to work and live in their communities may not be available without the full funding that comes from an accurate census count.

Likewise, First 5 Nevada County Executive Director Melody Easton said crucial resources for children could be lost without census participation, as some of their funding for early learning, school readiness and parent-child interaction programs comes from census data.

According to Easton, this group can be hard to count because people are often concerned about reporting more people in their household than are listed on the lease. However, U.S. Census data is confidential and can’t be reported to outside organizations, including landlords, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, or Child Protective Services.

“The census only comes around every 10 years, so the kiddos who are zero to 5 years old now are going to be teenagers the next time this comes around,” Easton said. “This is their entire early childhood that’s being impacted.”

According to 2020 Census spokesperson Marna Davis, people should have received a census mailing with a code to fill out the census online by now. Anyone who has not can call 1-800-330-2020 to fill it out over the phone.

To contact Staff Writer John Orona, email jorona@theunion.com or call 530-477-4229.

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