We Convene: Bringing People Together for an Accurate 2020 Census Count

Featured in County Connections Report: Be a Catalyst for Change


The census is more than just a headcount – the results of the upcoming 2020 census could provide approximately $71 billion in federal funds to California, so an undercount has serious consequences. For instance, if individuals in Santa Barbara County are not accurately counted in 2020, it could result in a loss of approximately $43 million/year for ten years.

Source: Santa Barbara County Complete Count Steering Committee.

That’s why the Santa Barbara Foundation is taking a leadership role in ensuring that all of our county’s residents are counted. In 2019 the Foundation convened local leaders and influencers in hard-to-count communities throughout Santa Barbara County to focus on an accurate census count. The Foundation supported the County of Santa Barbara in the creation of the Complete Count Committee, to create a comprehensive strategy to ensure every person is counted. The committee is co-chaired by Dennis Bozanich, Deputy CEO for the County of Santa Barbara, and Pedro Paz, Director of Grantmaking for the Santa Barbara Foundation.

“Santa Barbara County is all-in to ensure we count all people according to where they live on Census Day – April 1, 2020,” said Bozanich. “We have assembled a Complete Count Committee comprised of civic and business leaders who are fully engaged in planning a robust public information and education campaign that launches in late October, about the criticality of counting ALL populations regardless of age, health or documentation status. It’s in our hands to shape millions of dollars per year over the next 10 years that are allocated for schools, health and human services, hospitals, mental health services, homelessness and public safety. An undercount of the population will have far-reaching implications and undermine the ability to provide public programming and services relied upon by so many throughout the county.”

Santa Barbara County is home to many populations that have been historically hard-to-count, including children 0-5 years old, racial and ethnic minorities, non-English speakers, low income persons, persons experiencing homelessness, LGBTQ persons, elderly persons, and undocumented immigrants. Many residential lots in our county have multiple units; those in the main house will likely receive the mailed invitation to fill out the Census online, but those in the units in the back may be missed.

Another challenge is that the Census Bureau is using new technology – including online forms – to cut costs, since the cost to count each household has gone from $16 per household in 1970 to $92 in 2010. This increases the probability that those who do not have access to broadband internet will not be counted.

Pedro Paz, Director of Grantmaking for the Santa Barbara Foundation, is co-chair of the Complete Count Committee for Santa Barbara County.

In addition, there will be 200,000 fewer Census workers knocking on doors to follow-up on those who do not respond to the census reminders. This matters because Census workers generally know where to look for individuals who may be undercounted.

“The most important thing to note about the possibility of a Census undercount for our county is that any loss in revenue will be lost for ten years. Moreover, it will be us, the residents of the county, that will have to make it up,” said Pedro Paz.

The Foundation will invest $223,074, through a regional partnership with the Ventura County Community Foundation, in nonprofits that are working to engage and educate the community about the importance of filling out the census, or that are assisting community members in completing the questionnaire.

“Currently, over 70 professionals from local nonprofits, schools, health care organizations, higher education, community groups and foundations are working together to develop a plan to ensure every person is counted in 2020 – every child, every student, every adult, every senior, every immigrant, documented and undocumented – everyone!” said Patricia D. Keelean, Chief Executive Officer for the Community Action Commission of Santa Barbara County. “We are all working together to remove barriers to being counted – whether it be language, transportation, access to a computer – or even fear. Working together, we can overcome these barriers and ensure Santa Barbara has a complete count in 2020.”

To learn more about how you can support an accurate 2020 Census count, visit

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