New Mexico must get ready for census now

One year from April 1 is Census Day – when census takers begin gathering responses for the U.S. Census.

According to a George Washington University study, New Mexico receives approximately $7.8 billion from the top 54 federal programs – from Medicaid, food stamps, highway funding, Head Start, Title I education, housing vouchers, and Medicare. New Mexico is also the hardest state in the nation to count, being large, rural, sparsely populated, as well as ethnically, linguistically and culturally diverse.

This census will also mark the first effort by the U.S. Census to ask residents to fill out the form online or by phone – a remarkable challenge, because much of New Mexico’s population has inadequate or no access to broadband. The addition of a citizenship question is guaranteed to depress census responses. The U.S. Census Bureau’s own analyses demonstrate that the addition of the citizenship question to the 2020 Census would significantly decrease the overall response rate, especially among the hardest-to-count populations: young children, foreign-born residents, low-income families, communities of color and people living in rural communities. This is why dozens of New Mexico foundations joined 300 national foundations in a letter to the U.S. Census Bureau opposing the addition of the untested citizenship question. We hope the U.S. Supreme Court will strike the question from the census.

For New Mexico, just a 1 percent undercount would cost the state $750 million over the next 10 years. To help city, county, tribal and state policymakers understand the financial impact of an undercount to their community, the N.M. 2020 Census Funders commissioned the University of New Mexico Geospatial Population Studies program to create a statewide map: gps-unm.shinyapps.io/Census_Undercount_Cost.

In response to this unprecedented challenge, the N.M. 2020 Census Funders, a group of New Mexico foundations, is launching the Community Based Outreach to Hard-to-Count Immigrant Communities request for proposals, inviting local nonprofits working directly with immigrant populations and interested in ensuring an accurate count of every New Mexico resident – foreign-national or citizen. Applications to the RFP are due by 12 p.m. April 29 to the Albuquerque Community Foundation and are accepted in English or Spanish.

The N.M. 2020 Census Funders will be distributing $150,000 in funds and providing technical support to community based nonprofits across New Mexico through this grant opportunity. (nmcounts2020.org/resources)

Over the next year, the N.M. 2020 Census Funders will be issuing additional requests for proposals inviting nonprofit and tribal groups working with the hardest to count communities: young children, immigrants, low-income families, tribal communities and communities of color.

We applaud the New Mexico Legislature and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham for recognizing the urgency of a complete Census count for the state of New Mexico by appropriating $3.5 million to assist local and tribal governments in their efforts to realize an accurate count of every New Mexican. The 2020 Census Funders group urges the governor to convene the statewide Complete Count Committee to develop a plan for the funds’ distribution and to spread the word of the importance of the census to their community.

The 2020 Census Funders stand ready to help ensure an accurate count of the hardest-to-count communities in our state. To date, we have assembled $730,000 in commitments to advance an aligned strategy. An accurate census count benefits every New Mexican with sufficient appropriations for programs for children and youth, accurate information for economic development and policymaking, as well as political representation. Together, we can support efforts to count every single New Mexican for the betterment of all.

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