Accurate 2020 census ­essential for county services

Contra Costa County has been actively preparing for the 2020 census.

As mandated in the Constitution, the federal government counts all persons living in the United States every 10 years. The U.S. Census Bureau collects this information, which is then used to determine the number of representatives each state will have in Congress and how $675 billion in federal funds flow to tribal, state and local governments.

The census is the benchmark for the next decade of key decisions for our communities. It is of utmost importance that Contra Costa County achieve a full count.

This data is used to make decisions at every level of government and affects so much in our communities, such as the roads we drive on, schools, hospitals and public services. It also informs employers with economic data.

In addition to determining Congressional representation for each state, it provides data to draw federal, state and local legislative voting districts.

Other examples of programs with funding dependent on census data include:

Transportation: highway planning and construction.
Children: foster care, nutritional school lunch program.
Health and nutrition: Medicaid, Medicare Part B, health center programs.
Schools: Head Start, special education grants, Title I grants.
Affordable housing: Section 8, low-income home energy assistance.
Other: community development block grants.

More than $675 billion in federal funds is distributed based on census data. California receives about $76 billion based on population. Contra Costa County gets 40 percent of its revenue from state and federal resources. If Contra Costa County undercounts by even 5 percent, we would lose an estimated $1.1 billion over 10 years.

This is why we have been actively engaging partners in the county to make sure that everyone is counted once, only once, and in the right place.

A significant change for 2020 is that this is the first time the census will be online. This will make it easier to respond, because there are more options for self-response with the intent of reducing door-to-door canvassing. However, with these improvements come some challenges, in particular inequitable access to the internet.

Contra Costa County has established a Complete Count Steering Committee. This committee brings together community leaders, nonprofit agencies and media experts to work together to ensure we have a complete count in 2020, in particular with the hardest to count populations in the county.

The Steering Committee established Regional Working Groups in four regions across the county to better connect with local organizations, businesses, faith groups and residents.

The three main takeaways for this census:

It’s easy. The short questionnaire takes about 10 minutes to complete.

It’s safe. By law, the census can’t share your information with anyone, including other federal and law enforcement agencies. We really want people to feel safe sharing their census information.

It’s important. Census data helps determine our political representation and funding for local roads, schools and community improvement.

Contra Costa County has recently announced grant opportunities for outreach and assistance with the census. There are so many ways to get involved in this work. I encourage you to visit to learn more.

The Census Bureau is recruiting for a variety of temporary jobs including census takers, recruiting assistants, office workers and supervisory staff. To apply online go to

Karen Mitchoff is Contra Costa County District IV supervisor. Email questions or comments to Mitchoff at