Northern California Pushes Forward on Census Outreach

June 10, 2020

Leaders spearheading efforts to mobilize Census participation across 17 Northern California counties—an area designated as Region One—are applauding the recent restart of US Census Bureau field operations as a key step toward achieving a complete count.

For more than a year, hundreds of community-based organizations have collaborated on outreach efforts across Region One to encourage residents to complete their 2020 Census questionnaires. As of June 8, Region One’s average census self-response rate (SRR) surpasses that of California’s as a whole: Region One’s current average SRR stands at 65.7% while the statewide SRR is 61.9%.

“As we address the lasting economic and social impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is more important than ever that we achieve a complete count of Californians in the census. Receiving adequate federal funding for public health, public safety, education, and infrastructure will be crucial to help our state move forward in the next decade,” said Secretary of State Alex Padilla, who serves as Chair of the California Complete Count Committee. “I commend the on-the-ground-work by our community organizations and federal partners to ensure every household in California participates. Nearly 62% of all households across California have already responded to the 2020 Census, but our work won’t stop until we’ve reached a full count this year.”

Region One leaders said resuming U.S. Census field operations—which were paused at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic—will make it possible to enumerate more people, especially populations that have been historically hard to-count (HTC) in past censuses. Those HTC populations include children from 0-5 years old, communities of color, seniors, low-income residents, and renters, among others.

Throughout Northern California, advocates have used their community expertise and strong networks to tailor outreach to local HTC populations. The approach has proven effective. HTC communities in the 17-county region are responding at a rate higher than the state average, with a 57.7% SRR in Region One HTC census tracts compared to 52.9% in the state overall.

For example, during this time of limited physical interactions, Jakara Movement—an organization whose reach spans many Region One counties—has taken its outreach to the radio waves. “Through various radio programs, we have provided important Census information and updates, and we have also shared a Census hotline number for listeners from HTC populations,” said Harjit Singh, Director of Personnel for the organization. “Through our hotline, we have connected with thousands of phone calls from community members who need help completing the census.”

“The counties in Region One are extremely diverse in population and geography, and we are committed to supporting a complete count in each of them. Every voice matters. Every person counts,” stressed Linda Beech Cutler, Chief Executive Officer of the Sacramento County Region Foundation, the lead organization coordinating on-the-ground efforts in Region One.


The restart of field operations follows the implementation of the U.S. Census Bureau’s Update Leave process, which will see hundreds of thousands of households across Region One receive the Census questionnaire and unique Census ID necessary to participate in the 2020 Census for the first time.

While the 2020 Census began in March, many households in Northern California are on rural routes, do not have mail service, or otherwise do not receive Census notifications. As part of the Update Leave process, a federal Census worker confirms the location of each household in-person, updates the household location in the U.S. Census Bureau address file, and leaves a questionnaire and ID at the door.

Some of these households may have already completed the Census online. Local advocates encourage them to submit another questionnaire with the ID to ensure they get counted.

“We are excited that all households in our County, and throughout Region One, now have the ability to participate in the 2020 Census and be counted,” stated Michelle O’Gorman Siskiyou Community Resource Collaborative Executive Director. “In Siskiyou County, the distance between households can be difficult for efforts like this, but we have a strong community and are working together to benefit everyone in Siskiyou.”