Las Vegas Sun

November 26, 2020

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Nevada tops 2010 census response rate, but ‘there’s still work to do’

residence

John Raoux / AP

A briefcase of a census taker is seen as she knocks on the door of a residence Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020, in Winter Park, Fla.

It’s crunch time for the 2020 census in Nevada.

Responses to the census are due by Sept. 30, giving Nevadans just over a month to be in the once-in-a-decade survey.

Nevada has already beaten its self-response rate from the 2010 census. In 2010, the response rate was 61.4%. Currently, it is at 63.5%.

But officials still want to do more, knowing the responses are key to securing much-needed federal funding for the next decade.

Las Vegas ZIP codes 89121, 89169 and 89030 — which include Winchester, Paradise and Sunrise Manor — have low response rates. Nationally, Nevada ranks 27th for response rates, tied with North Dakota.

Lt. Gov. Kate Marshall, who is in charge of the state’s Complete Count Committee, stressed the need for a full and accurate count. Nevada’s growth, she said, means the state needs as much funding as it can get.

“Because our population grows so much faster than other states, we still have work to do, and while I’m very, very pleased and absolutely proud of the work that the Complete Count Committee and the subcommittees have done, there’s still work to do,” Marshall said.

Nevada is one of the fastest-growing states in terms of population in the country. The state’s 2010 population count sat at around 2.7 million, and the estimated population count broke 3 million in 2018.

A report from the George Washington Institute for Public Policy at George Washington University showed that Nevada received about $6.2 billion in fiscal year 2016 from 55 federal programs subject to a population count.

Lawmakers will have to craft a budget during the 2021 legislative session that will have much riding on federal apportionment of money. An accurate count can ensure more money goes to programs ranging from Medicaid to highway construction grants.

According to the nonprofit Pew Charitable Trusts, federally funded programs made up 32% of state revenues in 2017. Nevada is currently in the middle of a massive budget shortfall, with Gov. Steve Sisolak calling lawmakers into a special legislative session in July to cut around $1.2 billion from the state’s budget because of the economic downturn caused by the pandemic.

Like almost everything, the census was impacted by COVID-19. After months of suspending many in-person roles, the Census Bureau restarted door knocking on a limited scale on July 16, before expanding fully on Aug. 11. The bureau says workers have been trained in social distancing and safety protocols, will follow local health guidelines and must wear masks for the visits.

“The pandemic has caused these gaps in the ability of the Census Bureau to go out and do what they would have done in any other census year,” Marshall said. “So that makes it more incumbent upon us to get the word out to people to please either fill it out online, mail it in, call it in.”

Emily Zamora, the executive director of nonprofit Silver State Voices and a member of the state’s Complete Count Committee, said that responses around the state were better than activists feared.

“Especially with the pandemic, I think we are in a much better place than we had anticipated,” Zamora said.

Areas with a transient population, she said, along with areas with high college student populations, will need more work to ensure the most accurate count possible. College student populations are typically hard to count accurately, especially in Nevada, as the majority of students live off campus and commute.

“I think they are folks that may have been living around campus during the census, but now that the pandemic is happening they’re not there, so they may not really be checking their mail and stuff like that,” Zamora said.

Marshall agreed, thanking nonprofits for their help in calculating the state’s homeless population, a demographic that is notoriously difficult to count.

“In 2010, the U.S. Census Bureau counted, I think, 1,700 homeless people,” Marshall said. “We probably had something more like 17,000.”

Households that have not responded will receive another mailer from the Census Bureau between Aug. 27 and Sept. 15. The census does not include questions about financial information, Social Security, political views or citizenship.

Nevadans who have not yet completed the census can do so online, by phone or by mail. The state runs a website, census.nv.gov, that links to phone numbers for seven languages and to the online form.