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Update: Rural areas have lowest 2020 census self-response rate according to current numbers

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2020 Census

Currently, Las Animas County, right, shows just under half the population having completed the 2020 Census compared to 62.3 percent for the state’s self-response. Huerfano County’s, left, self-response rate is 30.4 percent.

The United States Census recently announced it would begin resuming field operations throughout Colorado this week observing social distancing protocols and wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). As weeks progress, field employees, called numerators, will be dropping off 2020 Census invitation packets at front doors of households in areas that don’t receive mail at their homes.

With the due date to complete the extension being extended to October 31, the push for completion has slowed down slightly, but with funding and house seats on the line it is nevertheless imperative to get it done said the bureau. So far, 62.3 percent of Colorado residents  have self-reported online, by phone, or via mail-outs. Trinidad and Walsenburg are close behind the state average reporting 58.2 percent and 51.1 percent respectively.

Deb Hartman, the Census coordinator for Las Animas County, said the big difficulty is getting the remote population to complete the questionnaire.

“Las Animas and Huerfano Counties aren’t doing as well as the City of Trinidad and the City of Walsenburg,” said Hartman. “We’re pretty average with the state as far as those two places go, but those outer lying areas have a ways to go. That’s such a large, massive area to cover with Kim and Branson places like that.”

To reach that population, Hartman expressed they have been trying various creative ways to spread the word. Many who live in rural areas have no physical address but rather rely on Post Office boxes at the Post Office as well as those located in groupings at various intersections around the county.

“A joint volunteer committee in Huerfano volunteered to go out and put posters where there are clusters of post office boxes on the county roads,” said Hartman. “We’re trying to think outside the box.”

Other populations that have been traditionally difficult to canvas according to Hartman as well as the Census Bureau are seniors and the homeless. Currently, she said she’s been in contact with the bureau requesting help to reach those who may not have a permanent address at all.

“The Census Bureau will be sending people out to help,” said Hartman. “They actually have trained mental health numerators to help with the homeless population to find out where they are and to approach them. I was really grateful for that.”

As for the senior population, Hartman said they are still working with local senior centers and healthcare providers to spread the word safely to them and provide assistance as much as possible.

“Originally, we had the libraries and senior centers that were going to assist seniors with filling out the information with computers but, having to close those we had to resort to other means,” said Hartman. “

Hartman added that if you haven’t yet received a Census mail out not to worry as a numerator will make several attempts to contact those who haven’t yet completed it to make sure it’s been done.

As numerators begin resuming field work, Hartman said they would be adhering to the protocols required by the county and wearing PPE. Currently, there is no PPE supply issues due to the resources available to them locally and with the county, Hartman added.

“There have really been a lot of good souls that have donated to us like Linda Barron,” said Hartman, “and the Health Department has been really helpful because they have emergency resources available to them.”

More information about the 2020 Census as well as steps to complete are on the bureau’s website at 2020census.gov.

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