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Advocates seeking higher response rate as deadline for census approaches

A census taker shows a resident a badge. Albuquerque officials estimate that over a 10-year period, $30,000 is lost in federal money for every person not counted in the census. (U.S. Census Bureau)

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

The deadline to take part in the 2020 census is less than 40 days away, and New Mexico’s self-response rate is about 54% – 10% lower than the national average, according to data from the Census Bureau.

Bernalillo County’s response rate is 67%, and Albuquerque’s is 68%, but Albuquerque officials said Thursday that they will be striving for a complete count in the county and throughout the state.

“We’ve got 40 days left, and we’re here today to ask each of you to take action,” Cathryn McGill, chairwoman of the city of Albuquerque/Bernalillo County Complete Count Committee, said on Thursday. “We’ve been working hard to persuade you that you matter, that each and every one of you matter.”

However, roughly half of all counties across the Land of Enchantment are finding a response rate less than 41%, according to data from the Census Bureau.

In February, 15 nonprofits in New Mexico were awarded a total of $100,000 to facilitate counting historically undercounted populations. Some of that grant money has gone to church groups in rural parts of the state to encourage census response within their communities.

“That’s because of Bernalillo County’s efforts in supporting those grants. They’ve extended the grants to work all over the state,” said Mercy Alarid, adjunct professor with Central New Mexico Community College’s Early Childhood Multicultural Education Program.

City officials estimate that over a 10-year period, $30,000 is lost in federal money for every person not counted.

“This is about key programs that we desperately need like kids having access to childhood programs, grandparents having access to meals and housing,” Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller said.

Originally, the nationwide deadline for census data collection was Oct. 31, but the Trump administration announced a new deadline of Sept. 30.

Despite the counting period being cut short, McGill said she is confident the state will achieve a full count.

“The census is important. We have 40 days left, and there is enough time,” McGill said. “We ask that you take 10 minutes to respond to the 2020 census. There’s something in it for you and it’s about you.”