Roswell households are about six weeks away from receiving their Census mailings, and the local Roswell Complete Count Committee is working to ensure that as many people in the area as possible are counted by developing educational outreach efforts, upcoming events and a promotional and ad campaign that pushes the “On the Way to 50K” message.
Roswell is aiming to count at least 50,000 residents within the city limits in 2020, which some civic leaders think should have been the population count during the previous decennial census in 2010, when the number was 48,366.
Census data is used to determine state and Congressional representation, inform government policy-making and allocate federal funding for many different types of programs. Cities over 50,000 in population also become eligible for additional federal grants from the U.S. Department of Transportation and other agencies. In addition, businesses and other organizations use the data to determine site locations or marketing efforts. For all those reasons, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates that each person counted by the census survey translates into about $3,800 in annual funding to a region, according to Steven Montano, U.S. Census Bureau partnership specialist.
All people living in the United States are required to be counted by law, but New Mexico is the “state most vulnerable to undercount” in 2020, according to the New Mexico Counts 2020 Collaborative. The reasons include the large number of people living in rural areas; the significant number of people under 5, an age group traditionally undercounted; and a significant number of people who do not live in traditional housing.
Members of the local committee met Tuesday night to talk about some of their plans and efforts.
• Montano said there is still a “dire” need for local census workers to fill temporary positions. While workers from other areas of the state could be shipped in if necessary, he said the Census Bureau would much prefer that workers be local and familiar with the area and its people. He said about 70 people are needed, with only about a third hired so far. Information is on the Census Bureau website, census.gov.
• Bob Entrop with Majestic Communications said that arrangements have been made with local radio and TV stations that will provide about $20,000 worth of advertisements for $8,000. The ads will be divided into “two flights,” one from March to Census Day, April 1. The second will begin after Census Day until count efforts conclude, typically in the summer.
• Committee members talked about upcoming events. Kristin Waide, chair of the Faith-Based Subcommittee, is coordinating a luncheon with 35 local pastors within the next few weeks. Marcus Nava, the chair of the committee, said a community-wide event is planned at Roswell High School that will include bands and live music, youth activities and food, as well as informational sessions and booths.
• Members talked about their participation in meetings, trainings and their efforts to reach veterans, the homeless and those in need of social services, as well as with leaders of schools and educational programs outside the Roswell public schools system. Mark Green of Harvest Ministries spoke about working with shelters, the Community Kitchen, and group homes and facilities for the abused, foster children and other at-risk populations. He said that Harvest Ministries serves about 5,000 people who can be informed about the census.
• Coloring books about the census will be distributed to local youth through public schools, early learning programs and library programs, and RISD will be developing some lesson plans for classrooms about the topic. Nava said that in spite of some concerns being voiced in the community to the contrary, he is confident that people can participate in the census without fear that their personal information will be shared with other government units or entities. According to a fact sheet published by the Asian American Justice League, U.S. law during World War II did allow for the sharing of personal information among government units in certain circumstances, but current law prohibits the Census Bureau and its employees from releasing personal information to any person or entity with the government or outside the government for 72 years.
Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.