census somos doorknocking 1

Daniela Sustaita and Blanca Quezada, members of Somos un Pueblo Unido, knocked on doors in Española Feb. 16 to inform people about the Census.

Rio Arriba County residents who have not received a Personal Identification Number (PIN) for filling out the Census should wait to fill out their form until they receive one.

This information contradicts previous messaging from the County’s Complete Count Committee, which is working to ensure that as many County residents as possible are counted in the 2020 Census. The Committee had initially instructed County residents to fill out their forms regardless of whether they had received PINs but has since learned that inputting the PINs will be crucial if everyone is to be counted.

The PINs are tied to the GPS locations of people’s residences. The Census Bureau sends them in the mail or will distribute them in person to people who cannot receive mail at their home addresses. 

When someone fills out the Census online or over the phone, they are asked to input the PIN they received so that the Census Bureau knows which exact household is filling out the form. 

The Census provides an option to fill the form out without the PIN––residents can state or input their home addresses. 

The problem is, Rio Arriba is mostly rural, and often there are multiple ways to state rural addresses. If someone does not input their address the exact way the government has recorded it, the Census Bureau will scrap the form without notifying the resident, said Charlotte Madueño, who is leading the County’s Census efforts. 

So all County residents should wait till they receive their PINs, to make sure the Bureau does not toss out their forms. 

People with city-style addresses most likely have received their PINs, and they should go ahead and complete the Census, Madueño said. 

Because of COVID-19, though, it will be a while before many County residents receive their PINs. Madueño said only 2.5 percent of County residents have city-style addresses. 

97.5 percent of County residents receive mail through PO boxes and not at home, she said, which means that Census workers must distribute Census packets containing PINs in person to those homes. 

The Bureau, however, has not been able to deploy workers to pass out the packets, because of COVID-19 safety restrictions. As of now, the plan is to resume operations on June 13.

As a result, the County’s Complete Count Committee is suspending its work until June 1. After June 1, the group, led by Madueño, Cindy Padilla and Cristian Madrid of United Way of Northern New Mexico and Roger Montoya of Moving Arts, will continue phone banking, sending out mailers and email blasts, speaking on the radio, posting banners, organizing community leaders and eventually hosting gatherings. 

Montoya said some County residents have expressed to him frustration and disillusionment around the Census, because of the confusing switches and mixed messaging.  

He said it seems the Census system is geared toward urban areas with city-style addresses. 

“There’s something to this notion that because we’re rural, we don’t matter,” he said. “And, in fact, we matter.”

As of April 26, New Mexico’s self-response rate was 42.1 percent, according to the Census website. Rio Arriba’s was only 7.5 percent. The national rate was 53.2 percent. 

If just 1 percent of County residents goes uncounted, the County will lose $11,638,055 in revenue over 10 years, according to estimates from the University of New Mexico. If 30 percent goes uncounted, the County will lose $349,141,644.

Madueño said despite the suspension of efforts, the team is not going to work any less hard to make sure everyone in the County is counted. 

“I want everyone to understand that we’re still fully in this,” Madueño said. “Our efforts have been suspended but come June 1st we’re gonna hit it hard again as we’ve been doing over the past couple months.”

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