Counting down: Routt County residents have until Sept. 30 to complete 2020 census
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Time is running out for Routt County residents to complete the 2020 census.
The deadline to submit the questionnaire is Sept. 30, and groups across the county are urging residents to respond for the benefit of the entire community.
The numbers from the census determine congressional seats and Electoral College votes for each state. They also help to decide the allocation of about $1.5 trillion in federal funding each year for things like Medicare, schools, roads and other public services supported by the federal government.
Amid widespread funding cuts to the COVID-19 pandemic, getting this money has become especially important for local leaders like Commissioner Beth Melton and Steamboat Springs City Manager Gary Suiter, who have been urging people to participate.
“There are so many government programs that use population to divvy up federal and state funds,” Suiter said. “It’s really important we get an accurate count on our population, not just in Steamboat but across Routt County.”
As of Tuesday, the county’s self-response rate to the census was 43.7%, according to Laurie Cipriano, a spokesperson for the U.S. Census Bureau. This is far below the state’s self-response rate of 69.4%.
Since July, census workers have been visiting households that have not responded. Residents can avoid a surprise visit by completing the census on their own.
This is the first year people can respond to the census online. To do so, visit my2020census.gov. Residents also can respond by phone by calling 844-330-2020 or by mail.
One of the reasons places like Routt County tend to have lower response rates, Cipriano said, is because of the large number of second homeowners who fail to mention the houses they own here. Second homeowners should fill out the questionnaire for their Routt County address but note that it is not their fulltime residence, Cipriano said.
For the past year, the Routt County Complete County Committee has been working to boost the local response rate, posting advertisements and sending reminders in the mail and on social media. They focused in particular on trying to reach second homeowners, according to Toby Stauffer, a city planner and member of the committee.
Keeping in theme with a tumultuous 2020, this census has come with some unusual disruptions. Of course, there is the COVID-19 pandemic, which temporarily postponed initiatives to drop off census packets at residents’ homes during the stay-at-home order in the spring. The U.S. Census Bureau has since implemented some operational adjustments in an effort to get an accurate count while following health guidelines.
To help the Census Bureau adapt to the pandemic, the White House Office of Management and Budget recently requested an additional $1 billion of funding. The money would allow for more staff and improve counting efforts.
“This flexibility is critical to helping us operate in the midst of an unprecedented public health crisis, including accelerated efforts to conduct our field data collection as quickly and safely as possible, while ensuring a complete and accurate count and a timely delivery of quality data,” according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Political interference also has complicated the process.
Concerns arose last year when President Donald Trump tried to add a citizenship question on the 2020 census. The U.S. Supreme Court blocked that move, meaning the question did not appear on the census. Many still fear the debacle could lead some people, particularly immigrants, to reject the count, leading to inaccurate tallies.
In July, Trump then attempted to enact an order that would exclude undocumented immigrants when allocating the country’s U.S. House of Representatives districts. This defied the longstanding practice of counting everyone regardless of citizenship or legal status.
Critics called the move a political ploy and a violation of the Constitution. A federal court unanimously rejected the order on Sept. 10, arguing Trump overreached his authority under federal laws governing the census and reapportionment.
Despite these disputes, more than 95% of Coloradans have completed the census, either on their own or after a visit from a census worker, according to Cipriano.
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