Giving Thought: Local 2020 Census efforts underway for a complete count
A new year is upon us and with it, the beginnings of a new decade. There have been many changes in the Aspen-to-Parachute region, not the least of which is the people who live here.
While it feels like more people are living in the region, the only way to truly know is to count everyone. 2020 is a census year, the decennial nationwide headcount mandated by the U.S. Constitution. And efforts are ramping up to make this year’s count as accurate and complete as possible.
Not many of us pay close attention to the census. However, it shapes many different aspects of our community from health clinics to schools, fire departments to roads and bridges. And the census determines the flow of federal dollars into local communities as well as how many seats in Congress each state has.
Quite frankly, the census is something we shouldn’t have to fret about. But this year, because of concerns about the lack of federal funding put toward the effort and what some saw as the politicization of the census last year, local and regional efforts have spawned across the country to providing funding and encourage participation.
“An accurate census is critically important to nonprofit, business and government entities all over the country,” said Phillip Supino, community development director for the city of Aspen and head of the Aspen to Parachute Complete Count Committee, the local community-led effort. “Organizations of all kinds make critical budgetary and strategic decisions based on census data.”
The benefits of a complete count are significant. Each person counted in the census equates to approximately $2,300 annually in federal funds allocated to Colorado. And, Colorado is likely to gain an additional seat in Congress as a result of the upcoming count. If the state receives an eighth seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, then that means a bigger voice for Colorado in federal decision-making.
The Aspen to Parachute Complete Count Committee (A2PCCC) was launched this past fall to increase participation in the 2020 census with particular focus on hard-to-count populations such as young children, seniors, seasonal workers and Latinos. The committee has been creating a comprehensive public outreach and education campaign to reach these populations.
“Because we have such a diverse population in our community and region, various forms of outreach will be needed to be sure we are all are counted,” said Janet Buck, planning director for the Town of Carbondale and A2PCCC steering committee member. “It made sense to combine resources to make this happen. The A2PCCC group reflects our diversity and includes representatives from health and human service agencies, nonprofits, library and school districts, municipalities, counties, the media, etc.”
The A2PCCC efforts are supported by monetary commitments from the towns of Snowmass Village, Carbondale and Basalt, the cities of Aspen and Glenwood Springs, and Eagle, Garfield and Pitkin counties.
“For every person who is not counted, Garfield County loses federal funding that helps pay for a wide variety of programs. That is why Garfield County is happy to join in with our friends from across the region to make sure that everyone is counted,” said Sheryl Bower, Garfield County community development director.
The public outreach campaign officially kicks off Jan. 27. The A2PCCC is busy getting ready for the launch. Over the next couple of weeks, members will be presenting updates to local municipal and county governments and finalizing a media toolkit for distribution. In addition, there is an in-depth training Wednesday for schools, nonprofits and agencies on how to encourage and support census participation with their clients. This takes place from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Third Street Center in Carbondale.
Census counting begins March 23. In early March, postcards with instructions on how to participate will be sent to all physical addresses. In 2020, for the first time, respondents have the option to fill out an online form or answer questions over the phone. By providing these choices, including the traditional paper format, the Census Bureau hopes to avoid the need to track down too many people in person.
Census Day is April 1 and kicks off the door-to-door phase. By that date, residents at a given address who have not responded will begin receiving additional postcards and/or reminders as well as visits by official census takers. In other words, everyone should have multiple opportunities to be counted.
Please remember that a complete count is a good thing for our communities. It’s easy, safe and important to ensuring that our region has funds for important services and is better able to plan for the future.
Tamara Tormohlen is executive director of Aspen Community Foundation.