City official urges residents to participate in census

By Sharna Johnson: Freedom New Mexico

Clovis officials are desperate to get residents counted because people equal dollars.

And it all hinges on 10 simple questions.

Clovis Community Development Director Claire Burroughes said large segments of Clovis didn’t respond to the Census count 10 years ago, skewing population figures and depriving the community of much needed money.

The southern portion of the community was the worst, she said, with only 17 percent answering the Census questionnaire, although, “Throughout the community it was quite low,” she said, explaining, “it negatively impacts the city’s ability to apply for funding.”

The final count of 32,667, which has been relied on for the last decade, wasn’t even close, Burroughes said, but it has prevented the city from applying for federal grants and program dollars that would have benefited residents.

Residents should receive a 10-question form in the mail to fill out by Tuesday.

By April 15, Census workers will begin going door-to-door to collect questionnaires that were not returned to the Census Bureau.

Even in Portales, which averaged 62 percent overall response to the 2000 Census — just slightly under the state average — the drive is on.

Nicole Thornton, community affairs coordinator, said the city is focused on getting the message across that even if you only live in the community as a college student or because of the military, you still need to be counted.

“We’re trying to educate our community on who should respond… There’s a lot of misnomers out there,” she said. “It’s (based on) where you are physically located. It’s important to be counted because this isn’t going to be done again for another 10 years.”

In both cities there are Census Centers set up to help people with their questionnaires and to answer questions they may have, Burroughes said, and people can also visit the Census’ Web site or call the city for help.

Things such as the number of schools in the community, infrastructure, health care and other programs depend on the population numbers determined by the Census count.

“People don’t respond to it for whatever reason,” she said.

“To be able to help people, we have to know what demography were dealing with.”

And the people who need the assistance the most tend to be the ones who don’t answer their questionnaires, Burroughes said.

It is important people realize their questionnaires are confidential, she said, explaining immigration status and other matters are not considered or recorded.

“If you’re here illegally, we don’t need to know you’re here illegally but we still need to know you’re here,” she said, explaining illegal immigrants impact resources and services alongside everything else and influence what is needed to sustain the community.

If the community crosses the 50,000 population mark, Burroughes said it elevates it into a higher bracket for federal money and assistance.

Information: www.census.gov

• You will only be asked to answer 10 questions

• Your personal information is confidential and not shared with any other government agencies.

• Immigration status is not an issue

• Questionnaires are available in multiple languages and assistance is available.

• No one will call you or ask or require you to answer any other questions.

• Census workers will not begin going to households until April 15 and will carry identification

Local Census facts and events:

Clovis

Census Block Party — 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. today, Potter Park, Clovis. There will be food, games and information booths on a variety of services and topics.

397 — Census workers have been hired in Clovis

Portales

Census job fair — 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, City Hall. People interested in working for the Census can apply and test.