The Sierra Health Foundation and The Center hosted a virtual press conference Tuesday morning for the 2020 Census, featuring a number of community and political leaders from across the state.
Led by Chet Hewitt, President & CEO of the Sierra Health Foundation, panelists spoke directly to residents, educators, and trusted messengers with an urgent message to participate in the decennial census. The press conference was organized as part of the SJV+ Census Week of Action, May 10 – 16.
“This is not an opportunity to not simply lament about how things have been, this is about planning for the future,” said Hewitt via Zoom video conference broadcast live at The Center’s Facebook page. “This is about Census 2020 and really getting out there and ensuring that hard-to-count (HTC) communities and populations are counted.”
Sierra Health Foundation is a private philanthropy investing in and serving as a catalyst for ideas, partnerships and programs that improve health and quality of life in Northern California through convening, educating and strategic grantmaking.
Noting the present pandemic has further impacted the importance of having federal funds secured for the future emergencies, Hewitt said all residents should do their part to ensure everyone at home is counted.
“In many ways, the pandemic has underscored many of the things we know the census does for communities, and that is provide necessary resources for education systems, for health care systems.”
That message was echoed by all panelists who joined the virtual discussion.
“If you care about public health resources for your community, you have to participate in the census,” said Alex Padilla, California Secretary of State.
“We really are at a critical moment in our state. We are a donor state, we pay more in federal taxes than we receive, partly because we have hard-to-count (HTC) individuals that don’t get counted during the census,” said Senator Anna Caballero, 12th California Senate District.
“Coming from the San Joaquin Valley, we often times have a chip on our shoulder. We don’t feel that we get enough resources,” said Dr. Joaquin Arambula, 31st California Assembly District. “And I would implore my community that this is our once-in-a-decade responsibility to make sure that we can have access to resources that would support our social safety, public health and infrastructure, housing and health care – programs that each and every one of us really wants to support as it helps our most vulnerable.”
“The communities that are the hardest to count in the census are the same communities being ravaged by COVID-19,” said Michael Tubbs, mayor of the City of Stockton. “The same communities being redlined, with high rates for obesity, diabetes, etc. It’s very important to create the world as it should be post-COVID-19.”
“The census is important to all of us, rich or poor, said Pao Yang, CEO of The Fresno Center. “It doesn’t matter where we all come from, it’s going to impact us. Each year $1.5 trillion in federal funds are allocated to states and localities. It is so important that those of us who know about how the census is critical – educate people that we work with, educate our relatives, our friends, our families. We have a lot of teachers that are home. You have the ability to reach out to your students, to their parents, and talk about the census. It is so critical, more so than ever.”
“People don’t really give themselves the self-worth that they should have, so that’s why we have to convince them that you are important, your family’s important,” said Dolores Huerta, President of the Dolores Huerta Foundation. “We have to constantly get that message out there and do it over and over and over again until they understand why they need to be counted, why they need to participate and to remove that barrier of fear that is out there.”
“There is a dignity that comes along with being counted,” said Hewitt in closing. “Beyond all the financial and other impacts, we know are critically important. That every individual living in every community needs to be recognized for their human dignity, for the fact that they are actually here contributing in whatever ways they do to the health, safety, and vitality of our communities and by doing that, you deserve every right to be recognized and counted.”
The full virtual press conference is available for view at The Center Facebook page.
The adjusted deadline for households to fill out the census is October 31st, 2020.
Kern Sol News is a youth-led journalism organization in Kern County. In their stories, reporters shine light on health and racial disparities in under-served communities across Kern. For more stories by South Kern Sol, head to southkernsol.org