Citizenship question fears appear to be eased, as Aspen-to-Parachute Census committee gears up
The U.S. Census Bureau sent the 2020 census forms to the printers last month without the citizenship question — assuaging fears about undocumented immigrants avoiding the count and potentially locking Colorado out of some federal tax funds.
But the work to ensure everyone is counted is still important.
Philip Supino, an employee of the city of Aspen and part of the Aspen to Parachute Complete Count Committee, said the effort to ensure everyone in the Roaring Fork and Grand River valleys are counted is going well.
Local governments, community organizations, public health groups and nonprofits have all joined the effort.
“We have a really diverse group of people,” Supino said.
The Complete Count Committee is continuing the organization efforts with a meeting Aug. 21, where members will discuss the latest version of the census form.
“We just recently received a copy of the draft census form, so we can talk about that form,” Supino said.
Beside the citizenship question, there are other challenges to obtaining a complete count.
For the first time, the 2020 census will first attempt to collect information from households through an online form.
Starting early in 2020, households will begin receiving mailers encouraging them to go online and fill out the census form. If someone doesn’t complete the form online after a few reminders, they will receive a paper form in the mail. If that doesn’t get filled out, a census worker will come to visit the house.
“The best way to avoid having a census worker come to your home and knock on your door is to complete your census form,” Supino said.
Part of the goal in using internet forms is to save taxpayer money. The 2010 census cost $13 billion total, and the 2020 census is estimated to cost $16.5 billion by the time it’s over.
Using the internet creates some new risks, according to the Government Accountability Office, especially if cyber attacks force the Census Bureau to pay more for fixes.
There’s also the chance that the public might not want to participate online given the perception that their personal information may be at risk of a hack.
Supino doesn’t think the risk of a data breach should concern anyone.
“Anybody in this country, unless you’re living in a hole, already has an online presence,” whether through credit agencies, the Internal Revenue Service or other organizations, Supino said.
“The Census Bureau is not asking for information over and above what you’re already providing to those places,” he said.
The local committee is also applying for a grant from Colorado to assist with outreach efforts.
The Colorado Legislature allocated $6 million from this year’s budget to help outreach efforts.
Federal agencies use census data to determine funding levels. Around $13 billion in federal taxpayer dollars are funneled into programs in Colorado each year.
Colorado’s population has expanded in the past decade, both on the Front Range and the Western Slope, and an accurate count is essential to receive all the money for which a region is eligible.
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Recreation and travel in Glenwood Canyon will be much more hazardous due to the potential rockfall and debris flows originating from destabilized ground, rock and weakened trees burned by the Grizzly Creek Fire last summer.