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State should increase census spending

New Mexico’s economy relies heavily on federal funding. As the home to two national laboratories, three Air Force bases and miles of beautiful public lands, our state receives more than $7 billion for federal programs each year, making us the state most reliant on federal funding in the country.

This funding supports thousands of jobs and contracts throughout our state. The 2020 Census could have an enormous impact on New Mexico’s federal funding and national representation in Congress.

More than $7 billion is reliant on population counted every decade by the U.S. Census. During the 2019 legislative session, state lawmakers designated $3.5 million towards marketing and outreach to ensure every New Mexican is counted in the 2020 Census. Unfortunately, this amount is $6.5 million less than what Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham budgeted for and a very small fraction of the funding that is at risk from an undercount.

It is critical that New Mexico use a portion of the projected budget surplus from the oil and gas industry to ensure an accurate census count at the onset of the legislative session. This additional funding is a necessary investment to avoid the risk of losing hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding.

Every count matters in the 2020 Census and New Mexico could lose $3,745 per year for every person who is not counted. The loss of this funding will impact jobs and our economy, our schools and countless other services available through federal programs like Medicaid, which is funded at more than $4 billion dollars per year.

With even the slightest undercount, Medicaid in New Mexico could lose $32 million each year for the next 10 years.

New Mexico could also lose one of our three Congressional seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, leaving us with even less representation in Washington.

While the United States Supreme Court has prohibited citizenship to be included on the census, a large population in New Mexico does not trust federal government officials who knock on their doors. In addition, counting an increasingly high homeless population and other underserved groups, requires more outreach, and in turn more financial resources to ensure an accurate count.

The Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce urges state and local officials to prioritize outreach to ensure an accurate count. Many states with less to lose began their census outreach more than a year ago. Consequently, the state must act with extreme urgency and fast track funding in the 2020 session, as some legislators have proposed.

It is vital to our state’s wellbeing that we have the resources to take immediate action to ensure that every New Mexican is counted. New Mexico could see the negative impacts of an incomplete count for decades.

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