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Coronavirus Concern Has Census Outreach Shifting Tactics

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Los Angeles Test Site Documentation inside the offices of the Burreau in Glendale, California on March 9, 2010. (Lee Roth/Roth Stock Digital Media courtesy of U.S. Census Bureau)
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Tomorrow is the official launch of the 2020 US Census. That means it's crunch time for community organizations as they work to engage historically undercounted people, like immigrants, renters, and seniors. Now with a pandemic on their hands, outreach work just got even harder.

"I am concerned in the sense that our population is highly connected," said Isabel Kang, Outreach and Services Manager of the Korean Resource Center, which provides support to immigrants and seniors in Koreatown.

"There are rumors going around that there was this Korean air flight attendant in K-Town visiting every one of those eating places," Kang said. That flight attendant wasn't actually contagious with coronavirus, but concerns like that have prompted the KRC to stop canvassing at senior centers and local business — places at high-risk of spreading germs.

"We're waiting a little bit to see if things get more stable," Kang said, adding that people are generally avoiding group events. "For the last two or three weeks, even my mom hasn't gone to church."

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The Korean Resource Center is rethinking outreach to the neighborhood's vulnerable elderly population. (Caroline Champlin/LAist)

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the neighborhood around the KRC is one of the hardest to count in Los Angeles County because of a large renter population and households with limited English. Kang said encouraging the Korean community to participate can be challenging even beyond those barriers.

"They don't want to be counted. They don't want to be visible at all. Especially people with family members — or themselves — that don't have the proper papers," Kang said. "So people live their lives in really quiet ways."

Kang is hoping to explain that census participation translates to federal funding and potentially more political representation. But instead of focusing on reaching out in person, the KRC will call and text the 10,000 KRC members.

The center has also developed postcard flyers they're still hoping to give out in person. In Korean and English the card reads, "Census is a seed," and comes with California Poppy seeds taped on the front.

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