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Census 2020 Preparations Underway Across Hard-To-Count New Mexico

Hannah Colton / KUNM

The 2020 census may seem far off still, but some people in New Mexico are already starting to lay the groundwork for the population count that happens once every ten years, and organizers say there’s a lot at stake.

Each year, over $6 billion in federal funding flows to New Mexico, for everything from Medicaid to schools to housing. 

Veronica Arzate de Reyes, a partnership specialist with the U.S. Census Bureau in Albuquerque, says where that money goes depends on an accurate census count. 

“It affects so many different facets of our lives. Like for healthcare, sometimes you hear people saying, ‘Oh, we didn’t get enough flu vaccines,'" said Arzate de Reyes. "It’s like, perhaps your community was undercounted and that’s why we’re gonna be short."

Census data can also determine where companies decide to open new stores and how political districts get redrawn. The effects of an undercount ripple out for many years, as decennial census data is used as the basis for other research and decision-making at the state and federal levels. 

Due to its large remote and rural populations, high poverty rates and other demographic factors, New Mexico is one of the hardest states to count. So the Census Bureau is starting its outreach early. This fall, Arzate de Reyes is traveling the state helping tribes, counties and cities establish Complete Count Committees, groups that can educate their communities about the census process.

These volunteer committees might be made up of church leaders, community organizers, business and nonprofit leaders, local government officials, and other local figures. Part of their work, says Arzate de Reyes, will be to look at which parts of their communities are least likely to respond to the census 2020 questionnaire, and make a plan to reach out in the coming months. 

Credit Census HTC 2020 map / CUNY Mapping Service
CUNY Mapping Service

Explore 2010 Census return rates and what makes various NM populations so hard to count on this interactive mapping tool.

Credit Census HTC 2020 map / CUNY Mapping Service
CUNY Mapping Service

Arzate de Reyes says the City of Albuquerque will hold a Complete Count Committee training on Tuesday, September 25 at 10am. 

The U.S. Census Bureau is also hiring for paid positions throughout the state, including for tribal partnership specialists. 

For more information on census 2020 preparations in New Mexico, contact Veronica Arzate de Reyes at (972) 979-1632 or veronica.m.arzate.de.reyes@census.gov. 

Hannah served as news director at KUNM and reported on education, Albuquerque politics, and anything public health-related. She died in November 2020.
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