Official: It’s crunch time in Nevada for US census responses

September 5, 2020 GMT

LAS VEGAS (AP) — It’s crunch time for the headcount in Nevada, with billions of dollars at stake.

Responses to the 2020 U.S. census are due by Sept. 30, giving state residents less than a month to be part of the once-in-a-decade nationwide survey.

Officials say the statewide response rate has reached 63.5%, beating the self-response rate from the 2010 census of 61.4% and ranking Nevada 27th among states, tied with North Dakota.

Lt. Gov. Kate Marshall, heading the state’s Complete Count Committee, stressed the need for a full and accurate count because the tally determines federal funding and fast-growing Nevada needs all the funding it can get.

“We still have work to do,” Marshall told the Las Vegas Sun, “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.”

Nevada is one of the fastest-growing states by population in the country — increasing from about 2.7 million in the 2010 census to an estimated 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 federal funds in fiscal year 2016 guided by data derived from the 2010 census.

Lawmakers crafting a budget during the 2021 legislative session will have much riding on federal apportionment of money. An accurate count can ensure funding for programs 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. Gov. Steve Sisolak called lawmakers into a special legislative session in July to cut around $1.2 billion from the state spending plan 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 are trained in social distancing and safety protocols, will follow local health guidelines and must wear masks for visits.

Emily Zamora, 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.

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

Households that have not responded will receive another mailer from the Census Bureau by 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 that links to phone numbers for seven languages and to the online form.

“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.”