Los Angeles County could lose up to $586 million in federal funding if Latinos are undercounted in the 2020 Census, according to a new study released Tuesday by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research and Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science.
The study warns that there is a likelihood of a Latino undercount and that a 10 percent undercount could result in the $586 million loss of money used for key public programs.
The study’s authors contend that “anti-immigrant” language and policies, along with a proposal to add a citizenship question that was ultimately struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court, have fueled fears about deportation and put immigrant groups, especially Latinos, at risk for being undercounted in the census.
About $12.7 billion in federal funding for the county is based on census-related estimates, according to the study.
Researchers — who looked at the effect that a 2 percent, 5 percent and 10 percent undercount of Latino communities would have on the county’s federal funding — determined that community-based organizations are more likely than government agencies to have discussed the potential impact of a census undercount and to be engaged in outreach efforts to promote an accurate count.
On Monday, Cal State Long Beach political science professor Justin Levitt told City News Service that Californians — and Los Angeles County residents in particular — are at risk of losing a congressional seat when census data are tabulated.
“There’s actually a very high likelihood that California will lose a congressional district following the census,” Levitt said.
Los Angeles County is split into 18 congressional districts and Levitt said the 27th and 33rd districts are particularly at risk.
“We know that the two slowest growing districts are (Rep.) Judy Chu’s district in the San Gabriel Valley and Congressman (Ted) Lieu’s district in the South Bay,” the professor said. “Both of those districts probably would be candidates to be eliminated or at least reconfigured.”
Levitt, who is also the vice president of National Demographics Corporation, studies California politics and local government and has done extensive analysis on the impact of the 2020 Census on representation.
The results will ultimately be determined by how many people statewide respond to the request for census data, which is mandated by law and the work of a statewide redistricting commission.
Every household in Los Angeles County should have already received a 2020 Census form with an identification number that allows responses to be filed quickly online, or by mail or phone.
The effort to count every American informs the allocation of federal funding for any number of critical programs, as well as Congressional representation.
“Everyone should respond to the 2020 Census as soon as they receive their invitation — and when they’re finished, they can make sure their friends, families and social networks know about the importance of responding,” according to the Census Bureau. “With the flexibility and support of the American people, we will achieve a complete and accurate count which helps guide funding decisions for things like hospitals, roads and emergency services.”
California’s population growth has slowed in the decade since the last census, in part due to migration to other western states. Texas, for example, could gain seats based in part on Californians moving there, according to a study released by the Brookings Institution in January.
Immigration to California — which had previously been an engine for growth — has also declined.
While many other states have lost residents to domestic migration, California also has a historical issue with the census undercounting its population.
“In 2010, the undercount in California was estimated at over 2 million — and half of that is in Los Angeles County,” Levitt told CNS. “These numbers could mean the difference between California staying at 53 representatives in the House and losing representatives. There is a lot at stake.”
Levitt and other experts worry that the communities that may need federal funds most are among those with residents less likely to fill out census forms. Undercounting is more pronounced among immigrant populations and communities with a high rate of poverty.
A robust and accurate census response has relied in the past on community outreach and door-to-door visits by census takers, who were set to begin outreach in late May. The Census Bureau announced last week that due to the coronavirus pandemic, it would suspend field operations at least through April 1, designated as Census Day, and would continue to evaluate operations based on the guidance of federal, state and local health authorities.
As of Sunday, 21 percent of Americans had responded to the request for information, with Californians close behind at 20.5%, according to data provided by the bureau online.
After the census information is gathered by the federal government and disseminated back to the states, the Citizens Redistricting Commission will be responsible for redrawing congressional maps. Public hearings are set to begin next year.
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