• Tom Genes

Get Counted-Census DEADLINE

Thursday, October 15 is the final day people can fill out a census form. That is two weeks earlier than planned, due to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling late Tuesday that suspended a lower court ruling, which had extended the date to October 31. That extension was allowed because of a federal judge’s ruling in late September to reinstate the Census Bureau’s October 31 deadline. The bureau has also set Oct. 15 as the postmark deadline for paper forms as well as the end date for collecting phone responses and door knocking at unresponsive households.

The decision from the Supreme Court means that all online census forms must be completed at 2020census.gov by 11:59pm Hawaii time on Thursday, October 15. That timeframe is 46 hours after the Supreme Court’s ruling. More information on the ruling is available at the New York Times, NY Times, and National Public Radio, NPR.

The extra two weeks granted from the earlier September 30 deadline to today have proven to be successful. As of Oct 11, all but .1% of Colorado’s had responded to the Census. A big part of that success is a result of non-response follow up efforts. However, Pitkin and Eagle counties response rates still remain lower, while climbing slightly in the past month.

In the eight towns between in the Roaring Fork and lower Colorado River Valleys, over 11,500 postcards have been distributed through door-to-door personal contact, which has made a difference. Mick Ireland, data manager for the local census, says, “We visited 10,000 doors, mostly just leaving reminders from Rifle to Aspen. Many, many people promised to catch up on their census filing online.” However, Ireland remains concerned about the number of people who still have not yet completed their census, just two weeks from the deadline.

Ireland’s efforts are part of a $140,000 communications campaign ensued by the Aspen to Parachute Complete Count Committee (A2PCCC) since February, which was paused during the height of the coronavirus. The group is comprised of all counties and municipalities in the three-county, eight-town area, which have all contributed financially. $10,000 of that fund came from the Aspen Community Foundation’s COVID-19 Relief Fund. The local expenditures became necessary following an unsuccessful application for a state DOLA (Department of Local Affairs) grant.

The local communications campaign has had a presence in all newspapers and most radio stations as well as buses, posters, social media, including outlets for Spanish speakers. This fall’s campaign pursued by the A2PCCC has been extensive, focusing on the undercounted populations of Latinx community, young kids, seniors, people with only PO boxes (i.e., no mailboxes) and seasonal workers.

It has encompassed:

· Media interviews

· Partnerships/community group outreach

· Canvassing – Aspen to Parachute

· Coloring books for elementary schools

· La Tricolor radio and social media support

· Facebook Live events

· Senior outreach via an original census song on social media

· Farmer’s markets

· Food banks

· Calls to Latinx individuals

· Utility bill inserts to Glenwood Springs, City of Aspen, Holy Cross customers

· Specific Snowmass resident outreach

“I am thrilled to know that these extensive outreach efforts have been successful the past month,” says the director of the A2PCCC, Rachel Brenneman. However, despite the extensive outreach, Brenneman lacks confidence that we will get a complete and accurate count by the newly-announced deadline of Thursday, October 15. That’s partly due to confusion over the deadline that abounded after the government announced it had been moved up to October 5.

The original deadline of October 31 was changed to September 30, but a federal judge’s ruling on September 25 rejected the plan and reinstated the Census Bureau’s plan for complete collection by October 31. Now, based on Wednesday’s Supreme Court ruling, all paper forms must be postmarked by October 15 and all online responses must be completed and sent online by 11:59pm Hawaii time.

Even with the extra time allowed and the extensive door-to-door efforts, Pitkin, Eagle and Garfield Counties still stand to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal funding over the next ten years. For every person who doesn’t fill out the 10-question census form, Colorado will lose $23,000 over the next ten years in funding for critical health, emergency and educational services.

In Pitkin County, responses are equal to the last census ten years ago, and just slightly above 2010 rates for Eagle County. As of October 13, the response rates for the tri-county area are: Pitkin County -­­­­ 39.8%; Eagle County – 40.9%; and Garfield County - 60.1%. Part of reason for the lower rate in Eagle and Pitkin counties is due to the high number of second home owners, who respond at their primary residence.

Throughout the entire state, 99.9% of Coloradoans have responded to the census.

Data gathered through the census informs how billions of dollars nationwide are distributed for health clinics, school lunch programs, disaster recovery initiatives and other critical programs and services. In addition to funding vital community programs, the census numbers also help dictate the political representation of the state in the US Congress. Colorado hopes to gain an 8th congressional seat.

People who haven’t yet responded can still fill out their paper forms if they are postmarked on Oct. 15 or fill out online forms before the deadline Oct. 15 at 11:59pm Hawaii Time at 2020census.gov.

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