Home News Local News Chaves County ramps up 2020 Census efforts

Chaves County ramps up 2020 Census efforts

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Census survey invitations will arrive in the mail March 12 to March 20. The county census subcommittee is placing yard signs and billboards around the area as part of its efforts to boost participation. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

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Local committee chair says 60,000 city count possible

A new type of yard sign is appearing outside the city limits in Chaves County.

About 1,500 signs are being placed in county rights-of-way to remind people to participate in the 2020 Census.

Local residents are able to respond to surveys starting in 11 days. Government and business leaders are ramping up efforts to get this year’s population count as accurate as possible, with at least 50,000 counted for the city of Roswell and possibly as many as 60,000.

“Right now we are in the (communication) stage,” said Louis Jaramillo, the Chaves County Planning and Zoning director who chairs the Chaves County census committee of about eight members. “We are trying to have direct contact with the community.”

Marcos Nava, head of the Roswell Complete Count Committee for the 2020 Census (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

The county group is a subcommittee of the Roswell Complete Count Committee headed by Marcos Nava, executive director of the Roswell Hispano Chamber of Commerce.

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Chaves County received about $59,000 from a state grant to promote census participation. About $25,000 of that was given to the city of Roswell, which is involved in many different promotional and outreach efforts with various sectors of the community.

For its efforts, the county has erected four billboards, with another two planned soon, and public service announcements and radio ads are beginning.

The county subcommittee is also distributing “I count” bracelets for youth to be handed out in Lake Arthur, Dexter and Hagerman schools, with colors of the bracelets matching school colors. A teal bracelet will be available.

“We thought if we gave kids flyers or brochures, parents might just toss those,” said Jaramillo. “But the bracelet can be a way to start a conversation.”

Starting March 12, Chaves County and Roswell residents will receive letters in the mail asking them to complete a census survey online, by phone or by mail.

Mail-in forms will be available in English and Spanish. If people respond by phone or online, the survey is available in 13 languages.

“The census is here now. It is time to do it,” said Nava. “My message is … it starts March 12 and goes until July 31. After that, it is done. We have to wait until 2030.”

Computers to complete online surveys will be available at Chaves County JOY centers in Hagerman, Lake Arthur and Roswell; the Roswell Public Library; the Dexter Public Library; the Roswell Hispano Chamber of Commerce and Roswell public schools.

Both the county and city are planning community events as well to spur responses. The Chaves County census group will participate in an Easter event in Hagerman in April, while a four-hour Roswell event at Roswell High School is planned for either March 28 or April 4, with laptops and assistance available for survey completion.

Jaramillo and Nava are reminding people that the Census Bureau will not contact them initially by phone, email or in person.

In-person contact will only occur for the homeless, people living in groups in facilities or on college campuses, or people who do not voluntarily respond by May. All Census employees can be identified by an official badge with their photos. Identities also can be confirmed by calling the Census Bureau at 800-923-8282.

Participation is required by everyone living in the United States. During the previous biennial census in 2010, only 66.8% of Chaves County self-reported, according to the U.S. Census Bureau website. The population count for the city in 2010 was 48,366. For the county, the count was 65,645.

Because the population counts are used to determine federal funding for a wide slew of programs such as health care programs, transportation programs and early education programs, each 1% undercount in Chaves County represents a loss of $19.28 million in federal funding over 10 years, according to information on I Count New Mexico, the website for the New Mexico Statewide Complete Count Commission.

Population counts also determine legislative representatives at the state and federal level and boundaries for state legislative districts.

“We don’t want to lose any seats to the north (of the state),” Jaramillo said.

Nava gives many reasons why a full count is important, including that population numbers are used by businesses, restaurants and retailers when they determine where to locate new sites.

Nava said that he is confident that the county and city are doing a much better job of reaching people by working with faith leaders, those who serve the homeless, college officials, public schools and nonprofit leaders.

“I know we have 50,000, and I am praying for 60,000,” said Nava. “Maybe if we get everyone to respond and everyone to be counted, and that includes infants, which in the past we have overlooked, we will definitely be at 60,000.”

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.

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Lisa Dunlap is a general assignment reporter for the Roswell Daily Record.