By Brooke Holland

Noozhawk Staff Writer

Santa Barbara County and cities across California are preparing for the next federal census that started April 1.

The United States Constitution mandates a census be taken every 10 years to count people, and the survey is conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau.

It’s estimated that in 2010 — the last census — only 79 percent of Californians responded, said Jessica Metzger, a project planner for the City of Santa Barbara. Metzger also is part of Santa Barbara County’s joint operations for the census.

“Getting an accurate count of everyone in Santa Barbara determines how much money we get from the federal government over the next decade,” Metzger said. “This money is used for vital services our community needs, including free school lunch programs, Medicare, housing vouchers, roads, college grants and parks—to name a few.” 

Each person uncounted in Santa Barbara County reduces federal funding for services by $2,000 per year for 10 years, Metzger said.

“A complete and accurate count of California’s population is essential to the state because the data collected during the decennial census determines the number of seats each state has in the U.S. House of Representatives and is also used to distribute billions of dollars in federal funds to local communities,” according to California Census 2020 information. “More than 70 federal programs that benefit California, including education, health, and transportation, use Census numbers as part of their funding formulas.”

The Census Bureau started its nationwide effort to inform people about this year’s census and is encouraging people to respond online, by phone, or by mail.

For the first time, this year’s census allows people to respond to the survey online or over the phone. It can be filled out at

No information that people share with the census can be shared with any other federal agency, including law enforcement or immigration, and every person counts, regardless of citizenship status, Metzger said.

About 143 million households in the United States will receive an initial invitation to respond to the 2020 census in their mailboxes between March 12 and 20, according to the Census Bureau.

The questionnaire has instructions and assistance (by phone and online) in English and 12 additional languages, according to the Santa Barbara County Census 2020 Complete Count Committee.

In addition, the Census Bureau is monitoring the coronavirus, known as COVID-19, and will follow the recommendations of federal, state and local health authorities.

“Completing the census has never been easier, and in light of health concerns around the COVID-19 virus, our focus is on promoting ‘self-response,’” Joni Maiden, co-chair of the Santa Barbara County Census 2020 Complete Count Committee said in a statement.

“Invitations are in the mail and include online instructions and phone numbers. Whether completed online, over the phone, or by mail, we want everyone in our community to be counted,” she said.

In spring and summer, census takers will visit homes that have not responded, and will also visit college students living on campuses, people living in senior centers, and also survey people who are experiencing homelessness and living in shelters, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at