Monday, May 4, 2020




          The expectation this year was that the 2020 Census would cost California one or two of its 53 congressional seats. Then came decisions by Republican-controlled states like Texas and Florida – believed to be America’s fastest-growing states – not to invest in making sure their residents were thoroughly counted.

          After that came the coronavirus pandemic. That led to current plans for pushing back the Census deadline four months, with final results likely to be reported by April 2021, rather than in mid-December of this year.

          This could be important to California for several reasons. One is that the extra time would give much more opportunity for Hispanic and other immigrant-oriented groups to convince their constituencies it’s to their benefit to participate. Pre-pandemic, those outfits saw their outreach and staffs built up by the $187 million California invested in getting as complete a count as possible.

          If California’s count is complete and those in Texas, Florida, Idaho, Arizona and other faster-growing, Republican-leaning states are not, it’s conceivable California might keep all its current seats, despite the just-completed 20-teens being the state’s slowest-growth decade of the last century and a half.

          From the moment COVID-19 became a huge factor in California life, it was clear that door-to-door efforts so often used by the Census to ensure the fullest possible count would be hindered, if not eliminated.

          That operation was to start in early April. But most Californians by then were sheltering in place and maintaining social distancing. In some other states, Florida and Texas among them, such restrictions were not yet in force everywhere. In counties that did impose such tactics, they often did not last as long as here.

          That could have meant a very incomplete count here and in other states taking the strictest approaches to the pandemic, like New York, Washington and Michigan.

          Having a complete count here is vital not merely because of congressional representation. The Census figures will also be used for the next 10 years to allocate federal grants for everything from public schools to sewer and road construction, forest management and welfare subsidies.

          Opponents of illegal immigration often suggest it’s wrong to count the undocumented who live and work here, even though they pay taxes of many kinds. These are the same folks who often claim illegal immigration saddles other Californians with huge expenses for health care and education, among other items.

          That’s contradictory thinking. For counting every human living here – as the Constitution demands – means federal education money, federal grants to hospitals, emergency rooms, disaster relief and Medicaid will come to California in higher amounts than if illegals are not counted. This lessens the burden on California taxpayers, whose state has long gotten back far less than a buck for every dollar they pay into the federal treasury.

          Anyone who wants more fairness in federal spending should realize counting everyone is the best way to assure that, with little political wrangling in the process.

          In spite of the Census Bureau making it easier than ever to get counted (via first-time use of telephone and online reporting by households), barely 45 percent of Californians had been counted by mid-April, possibly hindered by coronavirus preoccupation and confusion.

          But the new easy-response methods make good sense in today’s situation. Providing the very basic, general information the Census seeks (Example: How many persons lived in your household as of April 1?) via the new methods, rather than filling out a paper form or answering the door for a Census taker, is the safest alternative, least likely to lead to viral contagion.

          But now, everyone across the county will almost certainly have an extra four months to respond. In California, that gives the Latino advocacy groups being paid to promote the count a lot of extra time to convince the undocumented they have nothing to fear by getting counted. That’s a far easier task since the Trump administration lost its bid to include a citizenship question on the basic form.

          The upshot is that extra time stands a good chance of translating into proper representation and funding for California, a good thing in this era of a president more hostile to this state than any of his predecessors.

    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It" is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit

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