COVID-19 Puts Pressure on 2020 Census

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Courtesy of Flickr

Maya Silver

Contributing Writer

With the Supreme Court decision to halt the 2020 census population count — put forth by the Trump administration on Oct. 13 — the UC Santa Barbara (UCSB) Complete Count Committee was left with a 48-hour notice to count every individual who had not yet filled out the census.

Viviana Marsano, Isla Vista Liaison and Senior Advisor to Campus Organization from the Office of Student Affairs shared some harsh realities of the difficulties students in Isla Vista (I.V.) faced with filling out the census. 

Fourteen months ago — when Marsano was designated as UCSB’s main contact for the census — she could not have predicted that the official day of the census opening, March 12, would be the day before students were sent home, due to the COVID-19 pandemic shutting down university campuses across the country. 

“All of a sudden we had to change our strategy and communicate to 24,000 parents whose undergraduates were coming home from college,” Marsano said. “Santa Barbara County was one of the lowest counted in 2010, so the pandemic only made accounting for each person more difficult.”

“The 2020 census decides how 700 billion dollars is allocated across the country — including federal loans, free lunch for low income students, schools and labs, and many other ways to improve the Santa Barbara community and UCSB.”

After asking Marsano what she thought made it challenging for students in I.V. to fill out the census this year, she replied that the confusion about which home address they should use was a major culprit, considering that many students had ended their leases in I.V. and moved back home.

Marsano’s Complete Count Committee worked for hours phone banking, starting a social media campaign, buying air time on TV and radio shows, and sending reminders via email to a list of 36,000 undergraduates to make sure every student and resident of I.V. would be counted. In an interview with The Bottom Line, Marsano brought up the importance of the census, emphasizing that “every person not counted was $2,000 less per person per year, which meant $20,000 less per person for the next 10 years.” 

According to Marsano, these numbers highlight the necessity of the census as a means to distribute resources and funding to counties across the United States — a mission that halting the census did not help.

Within the United States, there are four undercounted populations, one of which being college students. The 2020 census decides how $700 billion is allocated across the country — including federal loans, free lunch for low-income students, schools and labs, and many other ways to improve the Santa Barbara community and UCSB. 

Ultimately, Marsano estimates that 71.8 percent of Santa Barbara County residents filled out the census by self reporting, while I.V. is estimated to have 60 percent of its residents having filled out the census and the United States having about 66.9 percent of its total population. She believes these results are still much better than they were 10 years ago, but when adding in the strain of the pandemic to the Supreme Court ruling to halt the census — the struggles of the U.S. census persist.

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