Solano EDC helps employers boost census responseMarch 15 2020
Feds use the data to figure out local cash outlays, estimated to be about $1,000 per person, and congressional representation, notes CEO Bob Burris, an urban economist
By Richard Bammer | firstname.lastname@example.org | Vacaville Reporter
PUBLISHED: March 14, 2020 at 1:14 p.m. | UPDATED: March 14, 2020 at 1:15 p.m.
By now, many Solano County residents have received their invitation to respond to the 2020 Census, the national headcount that comes around every 10 years, as required by the U.S. Constitution.
But one local agency has made it a point to help businesses and the public to complete the questionnaire and spread the word about how important that is.
Bob Burris, CEO of the Solano Economic Development Corporation in Fairfield, said it is necessary for everyone who gets a census invitation to complete the questionnaire because it affects our wallets and pocketbooks: The county’s cities and residents can share in the more than $670 billion annually that the U.S. government doles out to fund schools, health care, children and families, roads, transportation, hospitals and emergency readiness needs, among other things, across the country. Census data also determines the number of seats each state has in the U.S. House of Representatives, called apportionment, and political representation at all levels of government.
The federal government uses the data to figure out local cash outlays, estimated to be about $1,000 per person, noted Burris, an urban economist who earned an MBA from Sacramento State University and whose organization works with businesses in the region to create jobs and foster economic growth in the county.
But for the government to base decisions on incomplete information, he added, “could be very damaging not only to the economy but also to the quality of life.”
“When you look at a state like California,” the nation’s most populous and the world’s fifth largest economy, not filling out the census by a sizable number of people could mean “hundreds of millions in lost revenue” and the loss of congressional representation, he noted.
Therefore, the EDC “got involved with the census,” because the federal funding ultimately affects business as well as the general population, said Burris.
For the past several months to that end, his organization — with its 100 members regionwide, from the small, two-person business service organization to the behemoths like Genentech, Kaiser Permanente, Sutter Health and NorthBay Healthcare — has reached out to those businesses and local business-promoting groups, such as chambers of commerce, to boost census response.
“We encourage them to post information — for employees and customers,” he noted, adding that the EDC, in that way, acts “as an ambassador to the business community.”
Solano employers can help ensure a complete count in a number of ways, said Burris.
Among them are sharing census information in an employee newsletter or via email.
“So many of them have volunteered staff time and made a lot of effort in getting the word out,” he said.
Another way is hosting a lunch to learn why the census matters, and the EDC has set an example by hosting “30 or 40 events” and provided materials to attendees for the past three months, Burris noted.
However, he added, such events “going forward will not happen” because of public health and safety concerns about groups gathering amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Still, there are other ways to get the word out in the Digital Age and in the novel coronavirus era, when many, for the time being, are working or staying at home during the week.
“We’ve pivoted toward social media and direct advertising and media buys and other online ways to promote the census,” said Burris. “We’ve had to change very quickly.”
The EDC’s census-promotion efforts are on Facebook, @EveryoneCountsSolano; on Twitter, @SolanoCounts; and Instagram, @EveryoneCountsSolano.
Businesses can also encourage census participation by offering an hour off of work to complete the questionnaire and providing a designated space at their respective workplaces for employees to fill out the census.
Getting the word out about the census does not come cheaply, and the state of California, through the United Way Bay Area, has provided the EDC with some dollars for marketing throughout the region. Statewide, another entity, called Mercury, pays for posters and media, including TV ad buys and commercials, explained Burris.
Making it easier than ever for U.S. residents to fill out the questionnaire, the U.S. Census Bureau, for the first time, allows it to be completed online, at my2020census.gov; by telephone by calling toll-free (800) 923-8282; or by completing the paper form and mailing it.
Going a step further, the EDC has set up “questionnaire assistance centers” at more than two dozen sites, primarily at public libraries and Solano Community College campuses in Vacaville, Vallejo and Fairfield.
Additionally, the EDC has created materials, such as postcards and posters, to be placed in area social service offices, ethnic markets and “places that reach hard-to-count communities,” said Burris, adding that those materials are printed in nine different languages, from English and Spanish to Tagalog and Vietnamese.
His organization also has paid for some website and radio advertising, including KUIC-FM 95.3 in Vacaville, and, for Vacaville residents, also through census reminders in their city utility bills.
What is the census? The every-10-year national headcount of every person living in the United States, as mandated by Article 1, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution.
Am I required to respond to the 2020 census? Yes.
How long will it take to fill out the 2020 questionnaire? About 10 minutes, on average.
How do I respond online? Go to my2020census.gov.
How will the Census Bureau use the information I provide? By law, the Bureau can only use your responses to produce statistics.
Are my answers confidential? Yes. The Census Bureau is required by law (Title 13 of the U.S. Code) to protect your information.