Nonprofit hosts weekly distribution events for local residents and families in need, and educates on the importance of responding to the 2020 Census
San Diego CA— Like several other Count Me 2020 Coalition partners, Union of Pan Asian Communities (UPAC), a nonprofit health and human services organization, quickly pivoted its daily operations to adjust to the new “stay-at-home” environment.
May is Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, and UPAC anticipated reaching thousands of individuals to celebrate the beauty, culture, and strength of the API community, and to encourage 2020 Census participation. Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and other diverse ethnic communities are among some of the most “hard-to-count” Census populations in the State of California.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and to help alleviate the stress of unemployment and food insecurity, UPAC is distributing “Care Boxes” for their clients and City Heights residents in need. Not only does this emergency program feed hungry families, it allows the organization to keep at-risk youth employed at their Neighborhood Enterprise Center.
Working around the clock, staff and volunteers assemble and distribute hundreds of Care Boxes weekly, each of which includes one warm family-style meal from the UPAC Neighborhood Café, 2 to 4 days’ worth of dry food staples, fresh fruits and veggies, toilet paper, gloves, hand sanitizer, tote bag and a family activity to brighten up their time at home. Included in each CARE Box is information about the 2020 Census, and UPAC staff and volunteers are available to answer Census questions as food boxes are delivered or picked up. In the first three weeks of the program, UPAC distributed 400 CARE boxes, and over 2,200 servings of warm Neighborhood Café meals to residents and families.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened the need to provide resources to our children, youth, families and seniors in need,” says Margaret Iwanaga Penrose, president and CEO, UPAC. “AAPI and other diverse ethnic communities have been undercounted for decades. It’s now more important than ever that we have an accurate Census count, so our government, hospitals, nonprofits, and businesses can better prepare for emergency and essential services in these communities.”
2020 Census Self-Response Rates Lower Among AAPI Communities
Weekly food distribution events hosted by UPAC illustrate the need to respond to the Census. The pandemic reminds us of the importance of an accurate Census count. While people of color were undercounted in 2010, non-Hispanic Whites were overcounted by almost 1%. While the U.S. Census Bureau reported that Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders (AANHPIs) did not have a statistically significant undercount in 2010, other surveys indicated that they were the least likely racial group to participate (only 55% of Asian Americans said they were “extremely” or “very likely” to fill out the census form, compared to 69% of Whites, 65% of Latinos, and 64% of Blacks). That’s why UPAC and many other AAPI focused organizations are members of the Count Me 2020 Coalition, a nonpartisan network of more than 150 community groups, municipalities, and civic institutions committed to achieving an accurate count in the 2020 Census in San Diego and Imperial Counties.
Completing the Census can benefit our community, improving access to resources. As an example, the 2010 Census revealed that in one major city, the Asian American community had doubled in the previous 10 years, which led to a $50 million increase in federal dollars for schools, hospitals, and services for kids. As of April 30, 2020, San Diego County’s Census self-response rate was 63.1%, but in the neighborhoods where residents seek assistance from UPAC, the response rate was lower, ranging from 47.5% to 57.5%.
Barriers to Census participation among the AAPI and other diverse ethnic communities include linguistic and technology challenges, limited access to reliable internet service, and a distrust of government. Many of the people UPAC serves are newcomers, immigrants and former refugees who may have fled their home countries and are apprehensive to complete anything government-initiated due to confidentiality concerns.
“We acknowledge these barriers and are working to encourage individuals to complete the Census via phone, or online, in their preferred native language, as many feel uncomfortable responding in English,” says Penrose. “Many of those we serve prefer to speak to someone they trust when they have questions about the Census. Now is the time to participate in the Census to ensure our growing AAPI and other diverse ethnic communities are not invisible, but counted, heard and visible.” When safe to do so, UPAC plans to host in-person three (3) Questionnaire Assistance Centers (QAC) throughout the county, where individual assistance can be provided in multiple languages.
Other AAPI focused organizations are also members of the Count Me 2020 Coalition and are working to ensure an accurate count, including Bayside Community Center, the Asian-Pacific Islander Initiative, Karen Organization, Asian Solidarity Collective, San Diego Alliance for Asian Pacific Islander, Council of Philippine American Organizations (COPAO), House of China, Mabuhay Foundation, The Filipino School, Filipino American Cultural Organization, and many others. Each continues their Census outreach work remotely, providing “Virtual Assistance Centers,” answering questions on the phone and directing community members to online tools and resources such as language guides and multilingual telephone numbers all designed to help complete the Census in the privacy and comfort of their own residence. They are ready to answer questions about the Census. Visit countme2020.org to learn more.
All Count Me 2020 Coalition members urge residents to complete the Census, either online or on the phone, as soon as possible before enumerators make their home visits, currently scheduled for mid-August 2020. The last day to respond to the Census is Oct. 31, 2020.
“It is important to self-respond to the Census now to avoid the home visit in August. Opportunities are in place to provide your responses digitally or on the phone and in your preferred language,” says Penrose. “The Census is safe, secure and private, and there is no immigration or citizenship question.”
About Union of Pan Asian Communities (UPAC)
The Union of Pan Asian Communities (UPAC) provides health and human services focused on improving the overall well-being of underserved diverse populations. Providing assistance in over 30 languages at 15 locations across the county, they recognize and celebrate the diversity of our region and strive to strengthen these communities to achieve self-sufficiency. Programs focus on mental health counseling, community engagement and business development, addiction treatment & recovery, housing counseling, health promotion and cultural competency education. For more information, visit www.upacsd.com