GLENDALE, Calif. – Despite the restrictions on movement required to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, the work of the 2020 US national census continues in Southern California, as well as throughout the nation. Armenians have the option of writing Armenian in one of two different places for their identity or origin, which may help in better identifying the Armenian population and increase its official numbers. Outreach efforts to Armenians in places of dense Armenian population like Glendale are taking place through federal census officials, local governmental bodies and even specially formed Armenian-American community organizations.
The census is treated very seriously in California. Like other states, its Congressional representation, state legislative boundaries, and the amount of federal money it receives for Medicaid funds, student loans, special education support, and many other items, are at stake. Consequently the state of California allocated $187.2 million for an outreach and communication campaign to get people to send in their information. It created the California Complete Count – Census 2020 Office, also known as the California Census Office, to coordinate its strategy and complement the national work of the US Census Bureau, along with a California Complete Count Committee, which is an advisory panel of appointed members.
Armenian National Committee of America Western Region (ANCA-WR) Government Affairs Director Arsen Shirvanyan, who is also director of HyeCount, an organization created to promote Armenian participation in the census, speculated that the state is motivated by the need to accurately count the immigrant population. There is a danger that it may lose delegates from its Congressional representation if its numbers go down. With the tension between the Republican executive government and the Democratic state executive, this becomes more important, he said.
In March of this year, all households received by postal mail the request to fill out the decennial census form via telephone, and, for the first time, Internet. Paper questionnaires were sent out in April only to those households which did not respond. All fieldwork, such as the personal delivery of census forms to unverifiable addresses, was halted on March 18 due to the pandemic, but will restart as soon as restrictions are lifted. No physical community outreach events have been possible in this period.
Some concerns have been raised about lower response rates in California. Jeffrey Enos, Deputy Regional Director of the Los Angeles Region (encompassing 7 western states in the US) for the national US Census Bureau, countered on May 6 that “We are actually ahead of the projections nationwide and for the state of California for the number of households that have responded. This is very encouraging. For example, statewide for California 58.5 percent of the population have self-responded to the census.”