Attorney General Comes To Santa Barbara To Discuss Census

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This piece was originally published in the Pacific Coast Business Times, and can be found here.

In a roundtable discussion at the Santa Barbara Foundation, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and community leaders from the Tri-Counties pondered the 2020 census and the impacts of an undercount.

Becerra, famed for breaking the record of lawsuits filed against a single administration, has filed a suit challenging the addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 census. According to the complaint filed by the attorney general, an undercount will result in a loss of federal funding for California. The state received more than $76 billion in funding from 16 federal assistance programs responsible for distributing funds based on census statistics.

Dennis Bozanich, deputy county executive officer for Santa Barbara County, estimated a loss of $2,000 per capita, per year, for every person uncounted. Vanessa Bechtel, president and CEO of the Ventura County Community Foundation, said that per capita loss would amount to more than $2 billion for Ventura County alone over the decade following the 2020 census.

She also stressed the importance of investors and businesses in the Tri-Counties, which look largely at census data to determine geographical operations and whether there is an adequate workforce.

“What we want people to know is you have a right to participate,” Becerra said. “One way or the other, be counted.”

Census data also determines the number of congressional seats and how the state legislature is built.

According to Bechtel, Ventura and Santa Barbara County are 59th and 58th out of the nation’s counties most at risk for an undercount.

If people are not counted, Bozanich said, the taxes California residents pay will not come back to the state, which may have to be replaced with local dollars and potentially higher state taxes.

“These are the funds that come into our community and it is the most vital part of our social safety net,” Bechtel said. “If we don’t have an accurate count, if we fail, this is going to have a generational impact.”

Fewer federal funds means fewer health care dollars. Medicaid is a census-guided federal program and in fiscal year 2015, California received more than $30 billion in funding for that program alone.

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