Rio Arriba County’s Census team is coming up with new ways to foster community.
Before the COVID-19 outbreak, United Way of Northern New Mexico, which County officials contracted to lead Census efforts, had planned block parties and community gatherings where people could fill out their Census forms together.
Then, on March 11, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham declared a public health emergency after four people in the state tested positive for the virus. On March 12, Department of Health Cabinet Secretary Kathyleen Kunkel issued a public health emergency order banning gatherings of 100 or more people in a single room or connected space, such as stadiums, arenas, auditoriums and meeting halls.
A banner on the New Mexico Department of Health website now urges people to “please stay home” and President Donald Trump on Monday recommended avoiding gatherings of more than 10 people.
So the County Census planners have had to scramble to come up with a creative plan B.
Charlotte Madueño of United Way said phone banking will become a key part of the team’s efforts. They will reach out to the Democratic and Republican parties to request people’s phone numbers and will rely on community leaders to call people in their towns and villages.
County Health and Human Services Director Lauren Reichelt said in a Monday meeting that creating phone trees might be one effective way to combat the social isolation and anxiety that people will be coping with while they stay home alone.
“Maybe we can compile lists of what people need and help create neighborhood watch committees calling one another and also get them to fill out the census while they’re at it,” she said.
United Way Executive Director Cindy Padilla agreed and said the Census efforts could be an important way to create social connection during the Coronavirus crisis.
“The Census is about being counted, but also about paying attention and being a neighbor,” she said.
She said the group plans to meet with a group of nonprofits to ask them to reach out to people they serve and encourage them to fill out the Census.
The team had planned a special County-wide celebration for March 20, which County Commissioners resolved to call “Rio Arriba Counts Census Day.” Now, the event will occur on the radio and on Facebook live. Residents will be able to tune in to KDCE, 950 AM, from 2 to 3 p.m. that day.
The Census determines how much funding local communities receive, as well as how many congressional seats and Electoral College votes a state is allocated. It includes all residents of the U.S.
If just 1 percent of County residents goes uncounted, the County will lose $11,638,055 in revenue over 10 years, according to University of New Mexico estimates. If 30 percent goes uncounted, the County would lose $349,141,644.
You can complete the 2020 Census by phone. For the English hotline, call 844-330-2020. For the Spanish hotline, call 844-468-2020.
Or you can complete it online at www.2020Census.gov.
If you are interested in volunteering to participate in community phone trees, contact Charlotte Madueño at firstname.lastname@example.org.