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Your Pandemic "To Do" List Should Include 2020 Census

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When it comes to the census, Nevada has historically been a "hard to count" state, and reaching rural communities is an even greater challenge. (9lnw/Pixabay)
When it comes to the census, Nevada has historically been a "hard to count" state, and reaching rural communities is an even greater challenge. (9lnw/Pixabay)
 By Roz Brown - Producer, Contact
June 30, 2020

LAS VEGAS -- The pandemic may have pushed completing the 2020 U.S. census off the top of your "to-do" list, but it's well known that a limited response will severely impact Nevada's children and families.

Melanie Sanchez-Hernandez graduated from the University of Nevada-Reno in May, but before COVID-19 struck, she was part of a campaign there to increase awareness of the census. She said it was important to her that college students and Latino families with children understand its critical function.

"People are very skeptical about whether this money's actually going to come back around or not - and it really will," Sanchez-Hernandez said. "You will see programs around your community start to be funded better, you will see your roads being paved. Like, it really does come back to impact your community."

Nevada has reached a 60% self-response-rate milestone, just shy of 2010's final census response rate, which was 61.4%, according to data released by the Nevada Census 2020 outreach team. Nationally, the self-response rate is currently 60.8%.

A recent survey found that 10% of 800 respondents who make less than $50,000 per year said they would not include their babies, toddlers or preschoolers in the census count. Deborah Stein, network director with the Partnership for America's Children, said she worries the current political climate could push rates of those missing in the count even higher.

"So the question is not whether they are immigrants, but whether there is an immigrant family member and the family is afraid to return the form because they're afraid something bad will happen to that immigrant family member," Stein said

Like Stein, Sarah Brannon, managing attorney with the ACLU Voting Rights Project, said she also is worried some families will avoid returning census forms based on their immigration status. She reminds those who may have concerns that Census Bureau employees must take a confidentiality pledge.

"It is a confidentiality pledge that you have to take, that you're sworn for life to protect any information you might see during the course of your employment," Brannon said. "And it is punishable up to years in prison and of a fine of $250,000, or both. So it is a very serious pledge that they take."

Due to COVID-19, deadlines for completing Census forms have been pushed to October 31.

Disclosure: Annie E Casey Foundation contributes to our fund for reporting on Children's Issues, Criminal Justice, Early Childhood Education, Education, Juvenile Justice, Welfare Reform. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
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