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Census centers open today

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Census self-response rates in the Pecos Valley region of Chaves County are still lower than what is needed for a successful count for this area, so the Chaves County subcommittee of the local 2020 Complete Count Committee will provide two assistance centers today for people to come in and complete the surveys.

Louis Jaramillo, head of the county subcommittee, said that the assistance centers will be held from 9 a.m. to noon at the Chaves County JOY Center in Midway at 126 Willard St. and the Chaves County JOY Center in Lake Arthur at 700 N. Oklahoma Ave.

“We will be inside, so we won’t have all the heat,” he said. “We will help them fill it out. If they can, it would be great if they could bring their 12-digit number that was assigned to them by the census. But if they don’t have it, that’s fine, too. We can get it done.”

The county assistance centers are in addition to a booth set up each Saturday morning, 7 a.m. until 11 a.m. at the Chaves County Courthouse on North Main Street. That booth is held in conjunction with the Farmers’ and Gardeners’ Market, which is expected to run until the end of September.

All three locations will give those who complete a survey a gift card or gift certificate to an area restaurant, one per household, while supplies last, Jaramillo said.

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Federal law requires that every person living in the United States as of April 1 complete a census survey by mail, phone or internet. The deadline to do was originally July 30 but was delayed until Oct. 31 due to the pandemic.

But then the Census Bureau announced about a week ago a new Sept. 30 deadline. It said it would hire more workers, or enumerators, and reward those who “maximize” their hours so that all data collection can be wrapped up by the end of September and the bureau can meet the Dec. 31 deadline established by law to turn over data and analyses to the White House Administration.

That shortened deadline has led about 46 Congressional leaders, including New Mexico Sens. Martin Heinrich, D-Albuquerque; and Tom Udall, D-Santa Fe; to ask the Trump Administration to extend the legal deadlines.

“Extending the deadlines for the delivery of these files in the next COVID-19 relief package will ensure that the Census Bureau has adequate time to complete a full, fair and accurate 2020 Census. It will also ensure that both the Congress and the states receive accurate data for apportionment and redistricting,” the senators said in a joint press statement.

But the Senate has recessed without passing a new COVID-19 relief package, and they are not expected to meet again as a group until Sept. 8.

Jaramillo did not have a comment on that issue, but he said Pecos Valley counts are down from the self-response rates in 2010.

“We are still missing a few houses here and there,” he said. “I think over a hundred in Dexter and Hagerman each, and then approximately 40 in Lake Arthur.”

The Roswell 2020 Complete Count Committee wants at least a 50,000 population count in the city limits, and its head, Marcos Nava, has said that it needs at least 72% participation to reach that. But, he said, 100% participation would be great, as each person represents $34,700 in federal funding for the area over a 10-year period.

The counts also determine the number of state and federal legislative representatives for an area and have many other purposes.

As of Thursday, Chaves County had a 58.7% self-response rate, compared to 53.9% for New Mexico, one of the lowest rates in the nation so far. The rates for municipalities were 33.3% for Dexter, 37.5% for Hagerman, 42.1% for Lake Arthur and 61.9% for Roswell.

Nava and Jaramillo have said that participation will definitely be increasing in weeks ahead, due not only to continued volunteer efforts but to the work of enumerators, who are now visiting households that have not completed the surveys.

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