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Santa Maria is highest undercounted city in SB County, Census data shows

Nathalie Vera/

The City of Santa Maria is requesting state funds to boost outreach efforts for the 2020 Census. In 2010, only a fraction of the population responded to the questionnaire. An undercount could cost Santa Maria millions of dollars in federal funds.

“The most hard-to-count numbers are in the northwest [of the city]," said Santa Maria spokesman Mark de Kamp.

A Census Bureau map tracking areas at risk of being undercounted shows regions of Santa Maria are in the red.

“Two out of three Santa Marian are classified as hard-to-count by the Census Bureau, so that's a little slightly under 68,000 people out of 108,000 in our city," said Van de Kamp.

The hard-to-count population includes renters living in congested areas, students, seniors, or people without internet access.

“And that's important because this census is going to be done digitally," the city spokesman said.

It can also include undocumented immigrants who may hesitant about sharing information with the government.

“By the constitutional law, the Census cannot share information with other government agencies.”

One of the at-risk neighborhoods is located near the intersection of W. Donovan Rd., and N. Broadway. At the last Census in 2010, only 64 percent of residents mailed back the questionnaire. A costly, and difficult in-person follow up was required to reach the remaining 36 percent.

The city is now applying for $55,000 to $80,000 in state grants for outreaching efforts.

“This time around, the State of California is making approximately $180 million plus available statewide, and that's being dispersed to counties," said Van de Kamp. “We think we have an excellent case. We can justify that because we have by far, the largest of hard-to-count people anywhere in Santa Barbara County.”

Each person accounted for translates to about $2,000 dollars of federal funding for Santa Maria for each year of the next decade.

“A great way to think about it is, if there's 1,000 young school children in Santa Maria that end up not getting counted over a decade, that will mean the loss of $20 million that will not come to Santa Maria.”

The city is submitting its grant application next week and should hear back in December or January.

The funds will be used for flyers, city ads, and other educational efforts.

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Nathalie Vera


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