ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The 2020 census is underway, but New Mexico is facing a big hurdle when it comes to getting that complete count for federal funding. One organization is making sure that despite setbacks from COVID-19, every New Mexican is counted.
“It’s so critically important that New Mexico has a complete count of all the residents here in our state,” said Jose Viramontes, a spokesperson for I Count NM.
‘I Count NM’ says every person matters. The census count determines how much federal funding the state gets.
“This is how we build schools, create a healthcare system,” said New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. “This is how we make sure that we get the infrastructure to keep our roads maintained and safe.
However, New Mexico faces hurdles in getting that full count that other states don’t usually deal with. This includes the need for forms and representatives in multiple languages, lower internet connectivity in parts of the state and people spread out all over the place.
“New Mexico does stand at a more difficult position to get a complete count in the census,” said Viramontes. “Because of New Mexico’s geographic spread, we’re a huge land mass with a small population. That means our people are spread out at a greater rate than really anywhere else except for perhaps Alaska.”
Many can’t go online or get a form in the mail, so their forms have to be hand-delivered by a representative with the U.S. Census Bureau. However, because of COVID-19, the Census Bureau has temporarily halted those deliveries, leaving a big percentage uncounted.
“The Census Bureau stopped all of what the call field operations. In many states, that’s not a huge deal. These are the operations where they actually hand-deliver a census to individuals because they can’t be mailed their form,” said Viramontes. “Across the nation, that’s only about 5-percent of households, but in New Mexico, we’re one of the highest percentages of hand delivery of states, nearly 20-percent of our residents. About 165,000 households have not received their census form yet.”
State officials say now with the state taking a big financial hit because of the coronavirus, it’s more important than ever, to send in your census. The count helps fund everything from fixing roads to hospital and school operations.
“As we start to emerge from COVID, this is absolutely the time to do your little part to make a difference in our community,” said Viramontes.
As of this week, about 46-percent of New Mexicans have responded to the census. The Census Bureau has requested that Congress approve a deadline extension from mid-August to Oct. 31 because of delays caused by the coronavirus. It has not been passed yet.