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Fiesta del Census finale set for Sunday in Española

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

Drive through and be counted!

Rio Arriba County will hold the last in a series of Fiesta del Census events in Española on Sunday, an initiative aimed at getting people to complete their census form before the Sept. 30 deadline.

Hosted by comedian Carlos Medina, the event will include raffles and gift card giveaways worth $15,000. But, most important, attendees will be guided through the process of filling out the census, and they don’t even have to leave their cars.

Census officials say filling out the census on time is critical in determining federal funding that goes to the county to pay for roads, schools, health care, senior and co-operative extension services over the course of the next 10 years. In total, about 375 federal programs are tied to the census, according to a news release.

So far, Fiesta del Census events have helped increase census response rates by 7%, according to Cristina Caltagirone, special projects coordinator for the Rio Arriba County Economic Development Department. But with only a 30% response rate to date, the county lags woefully behind the rest of the state, which is at 57%.

Caltagirone said that, for every person not counted in the census, the county loses about $57,000, which has real-life impacts on the services the county provides to the population it serves.

For example, Rio Arriba County had wanted to build a 911 call center, but missed out on about $500,000 in federal grants because of an undercount from the 2010 census. As a result, the center wasn’t built.

The undercount also impacted other projects, she said, including highway repairs and creating a safety corridor.

Part of the problem is that the majority of people in the county have post office boxes, which led to delays because census workers then had to hand deliver forms to their physical address. This meant most county residents did not receive their census forms until June.

Caltagirone said there has been a lot of confusion about the census this year and wanted to emphasize that the census isn’t a political event. Counting people every decade has been around since the country was born to ensure federal funds can be allocated equitably.

To entice people to participate in the census, Fiesta del Census events have offered gift cards to local businesses and provided entertainment by the likes of Medina, who will perform some census-themed comedy sketches during Sunday’s event. At past events, celebrities such as Chef Fernando Ruiz, who appeared on the Food Network, have appeared to add spice. Ruiz treated attendees with free samples of Mexican street corn.

The event will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday at Washington Federal Bank at the intersection of North Riverside Drive and Fairview Lane in Española.