Residents of San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Counties have been completing the U.S. Census survey at a higher rate than the state and national average but the return rate is still lower than the last Census.
The U.S. Census Bureau will soon send people out to knock on doors as part of a non-response follow up campaign, as four out of 10 Americans remain unaccounted for in the 2020 Census.
"It's power, it's money, it's data, so if you're not counted, the money that should be coming to your community goes somewhere else and we don't want that," California Complete Count Census 2020 Dir. Ditas Katague said.
According to Katague, the pandemic has preoccupied many survey takers, who are now more focused on income and health than responding to the survey.
California's response rate of 62.6 percent is higher than the national average of 61.5 percent, despite failed efforts by the Trump Administration to add a citizenship question.
Critics of that question feared it would scare off undocumented immigrants, who account for about 41,500 Santa Barbara County residents and 9,000 San Luis Obispo County residents, according to the latest figures from the Public Policy Institute of California.
"California is the hardest to count state," Katague said. "It's because we're diverse, large, things that make populations and communities hard to count include overcrowding, people who are renters, folks with limited English proficiency."
Even though the question about whether the respondent is an American citizen is not included in the Census, Lompoc Mayor Janelle Osborne believes the prospect of such a question did slow the response rate in the Lompoc community.
"A lot of our population are immigrants and they're unsure about this process given the national politics around it," Osborne said.
Census data not only impacts federal funding for individual communities but the mapping of voting districts.
A weekend census bike caravan through Lompoc, where the response rate is around half, aimed to get more people counted.
"We're essential workers, grocery workers, work in the fields, first responders, work for the city, they're busy working," Osborne said. "So finding the time isn't something our community has in the first place."
Santa Barbara County has a 2020 U.S. Census response rate of about 65.7 percent as of the last check, with Lompoc, Buellton, and New Cuyama most absent.
And in SLO County, about 63.44 percent of residents are counted. Paso Robles, Cambria, and San Miguel are least represented.
Completing the census is legally required and can result in penalties for not doing so.
The U.S. Census Bureau will collect data for the 2020 report through October.