2020 census prep underway in Routt County: Here’s what to expect
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — With the New Year mere months away, Routt County is gearing up for the 2020 United States Census, which may mean some strangers with clipboards will be walking around neighborhoods.
They are helping to ensure the U.S. Census Bureau gets an accurate tally of local residents. The numbers generated during the count, which begins in the spring, will determine how the state allocates more than $675 billion in funding to states and communities for the next decade.
During the 2010 census, Colorado reported a lower response rate than in 2000, according to Jennifer Hilmann, a local media specialist for the Census Bureau. That meant less money for things like education, transportation, employment, health care and public policy.
Hilmann warns that without a proper count, the state and communities like Steamboat could again lose out on vital funds.
“You will be missing out for 10 years worth of that $675 billion dollar pie,” she said.
That is why the Census Bureau, as well as local officials, are working to ensure each and every person in the county receives a census form and turns it in.
“There is always a feeling that we didn’t get everyone,” said Deputy County Manager Dan Weinheimer. “That isn’t specific to Routt County. That is across the country.”
To boost response rates, a group of about 20 people formed the Routt County Complete Count Committee, which so far has met only once. Led by County Commissioner Tim Corrigan, it features a broad membership consisting of city and county officials, as well as business owners, nonprofits, and library and education employees.
Other Colorado counties have formed similar committees.
Weinheimer said that some people do not fill out the census because they are not familiar with the process or fear they may face consequences by participating.
This time around, concerns have centered around the Trump Administration’s calls for a citizenship question on the 2020 census. The Supreme Court blocked that move in July, meaning the question will not appear on the census. Many still fear the debacle will lead some people, particularly immigrants, to reject the count, leading to inaccurate tallies.
In 2010, only 71% of Routt County residents mailed back their census forms, according to data from the Census Bureau.
If people do not respond to the census — either by phone, mail or online — the bureau has to follow up with in-person interviews to try to get them to participate, which can be costly.
The local Complete Tally Committee plans to provide education and outreach to harder-to-count residents in Routt County, which also include those who do not live in traditional housing, highly mobile people and non-English speakers, among others.
The Census Bureau has begun address canvassing, according to Hilmann, which includes visiting neighborhoods to verify addresses are up to date.
If residents are unsure about a stranger near their homes, Hilmann said official census workers should have a nametag around their necks and carry either an iPad or a laptop.
By April 1, every home should receive a postcard with the census form enclosed. This also is the first year people can submit the form online, according to Hillmann.
The Census Bureau is continuing to hire people to help with next year’s census. Jobs typically pay $16 to $20 per hour, according to the bureau’s website. Those interested can apply at 2020census.gov/jobs.
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