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East Los Angeles Residents Critical to Census

Eastern Group Publications, News Report, Gloria Angelina Castillo Posted: Sep 19, 2009

BELL GARDENS, Calif.-- The U.S. Census has its eye on Bell Gardens because the city in Southeast Los Angeles County is considered one of several target areas with a hard to count population. The 2000 Census failed to accurately count the citys mostly Latino working class residents, believe Census and city officials. As a result, the city received a smaller than deserved share of federal funds that are allocated on a per capita basis, negatively impacting local services.

There is a rumor that Bell Gardens is the most undercounted population in the country, Aldo Schindler, Director of the Community Development for Bell Gardens told EGP. There is no question that the citys population has been grossly undercounted.

Bell Gardens has a large number of residents who are primarily Spanish speaking, and possibly undocumented, according to Census officials.

Schindler told residents at the Monday night City Council meeting that it is extremely important that they be counted in the Census.

The Census data is used to distribute $300 billion in federal funds to local and state governments each year to provide services, such as transportation, health care and education at the local level.

The data is also used to determine the number of seats California will have in Congress, he said. Census data is also used to establish borders for other elected districts, such as the Board of Supervisors, the state Assembly and Senate.

To place this into context, an increase in our population of 6,000 people will categorize our City as a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) entitlement City. This will more than double our CDBG funding allocation providing our City increased funding for our residents, businesses and public infrastructure. This is just one example of the benefits of an accurate census count, he said.

The Census count translates into dollars as Community Development Grant funds, to residents that means streets, sidewalks, home rehabilitation programs, economic development, and parksFord Park was built using CDBG dollars, Schindler told EGP.

By law, the Census count takes place every ten years. The next official count will begin on April 1, 2010. Every person living in the US at the time of the Census is to be counted regardless of his or her immigration status, country of origin, or ability to speak English.

Federal law protects personal information collected through the Census, and the agency, a well as all of its employees are prohibited from sharing any personal or identifying information with any outside government agency or department, or any other group, including the Department of Homeland Security and immigration enforcement officials. Failure to abide by this law is a criminal offense.

The 2010 Census questionnaire form has been significantly scaled down in size, and should only take 10 minutes to complete, according to Census officials.

The City of Bell Gardens is an official 2010 Census Partner. A Complete Count Committee chaired by Mayor Priscilla Flores and City Manager Steve Simonian is currently being formed to help identify events and local gatherings where residents can be informed about the importance of being counted.

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