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Gov. Lujan Grisham signs funding bill for census preparation

One of several subdivisions being built on the southeast side of Carlsbad Wednesday September 25, 2019. Houses are being built for people moving to Carlsbad for oil related jobs. The 2020 Census will be used to determine federal funding to New Mexico, including the rapidly growing southeastern region. (Eddie Moore/ Albuquerque Journal)

SANTA FE — Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Monday signed into law a bill that will provide $8 million in emergency funding for statewide U.S. Census preparation efforts.

The first-term Democratic governor said it’s crucial as many New Mexico residents as possible be counted in the once-per-decade census, which is used to draw political boundary lines and determine federal spending for various programs.

“This is our money,” said Lujan Grisham, who cited state highway spending as one area that could be impacted by the census’s results.

The $8 million in emergency funding is in addition to $3.5 million that was included in this year’s $7 billion budget bill. It will be used to launch a statewide public awareness campaign and provide resources to community-based organizations with outreach efforts, among other areas.

The bill, Senate Bill 4, passed both legislative chambers without opposition and took effect immediately upon being signed.

It’s just the second bill to be signed into law so far this session. A legislative “feed bill” that pays for legislative session expenses, including staff salaries, is the other.

Even a 1% undercount of New Mexico’s population during the U.S. Census could mean a loss of an estimated $780 million in federal funding over the next decade, according to Finance and Administration Secretary Olivia Padilla-Jackson.

Currently, New Mexico gets roughly $7.8 billion annually in federal dollars from 16 programs, including money for Medicaid, food stamps, early childhood education and road repairs.

That makes New Mexico the third-most reliant state in the nation on federal funding, in terms of percentage of total state revenue, according to a recent Tax Foundation study.

Much census preparation work is already underway, as a state-level census commission created by Lujan Grisham in April is working with immigrant rights groups and tribal representatives to increase participation rates.

Meanwhile, the 2020 census will mark the first time that New Mexico residents – and those of other states – can respond online, though responses can also be entered by mail or by phone. U.S. Census Bureau officials have said that census workers will conduct some in-person interviews, though only as a last resort.

National census day, or the official reference day for census purposes, is April 1, 2020.


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