Grand County gears up for 2020 census count
Of all of the civic duties, one of the least onerous and most important is participating in the decennial census.
To prepare for the 2020 census, Grand County has started putting together a group of local representatives called the “Complete Count Committee,” which will identify hard-to-contact populations and devise strategies to reach out to them during the census.
“We rely very heavily on public voluntary participation to have a successful census, and in the end, that’s really going to benefit the local communities to the greatest extent possible,” said Brian Meinhart, 2020 census partnership specialist.
At a meeting with 2020 census partnership specialists on Tuesday, the county’s communications coordinator, Alexis Kimbrough, was named chair of the group, Her role will be coordinating the committee’s efforts to try to ensure a complete and accurate census.
Some of the hardest populations to count in Grand County are seasonal workers and second-homeowners because, for many of those people, it’s unclear where they call home. Other groups include people whose first language isn’t English, young children and the homeless.
Part of inviting participation from those groups means educating them on how and where to take the census, Meinhart said. This year’s census can be filled out online, over the phone, in-person or by mail, all of which are designed to make it as easy as possible for people to participate.
“While we are emphasizing (participating) online, if you’ve got somebody that is hesitant to do that, they don’t have to do it online,” Meinhart said. “If someone wants some assistance, they can definitely call us up and the phone is going to be one where language-assistance is (available) … and we do have paper questionnaires in 12 languages.”
In previous years, Grand County has had a low response with only a 33% participation rate in 2000 and 2010.
Meinhart also shared tips on how to combat myths or concerns that prevent people from participating, such as being reported to a landlord for having too many tenants. He highlighted that the Census Bureau is not an enforcement agency and is bound by federal law to keep all responses confidential.
“Answer truthfully,” he said. “If there’s 10 people living here and there’s only supposed to be two, don’t worry about it because the Census Bureau is not here to bring the hammer down on you. … We’re not an enforcement agency; we’re here to count heads.”
It is important to encourage as many people as possible to participate, not only because participation is legally mandated, but because the data is used for Congressional and state General Assembly reapportionment and to distribute $675 billion in federal money annually.
“It is really important because it helps quantify what the state gets in representation in Congress, helps quantify the representation Grand County gets at the state legislature and it helps with federal and state dollars and programs, so we need this to work really well,” said County Commissioner Rich Cimino.
Meinhart also added that any undercounts, or people missed by the census, wouldn’t be rectified until the next 2030 census and could affect funding and representation until that time.
Right now, Grand County’s Complete Count Committee is taking volunteers to help identify and reach out to hard to contact populations and efforts will focus on educating the public on how and when they can expect census information and encouraging participation.
Many residents in Grand County will get their census invitations hand delivered at their physical address, since the Census Bureau doesn’t deliver census information to PO Boxes. Others will get them in the mail. Residents can expect to start receiving that information in March 2020.
Who Counts as Part of Your Residence?
If you are filling out the census for your household, you should count anyone who is living there as of April 1, 2020. This includes anyone who is living and sleeping there most of the time.
Counting Young Children
This includes: all children who live in your household, including grandchildren, nieces and nephews, and the children of friends; children who split their time between households, if they are living with you on April 1, 2020; and newborn babies, even those who are still in the hospital on April 1, 2020
For information on students, military personnel, people in healthcare or corrections facilities check https://2020census.gov/en/who-to-count.html.
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