By Dalton Padilla / New Mexico News Port
The U.S. Census Bureau is looking for workers from all cultures to help ensure accurate data is recorded in the 2020 count. This is especially important in New Mexico, which has fallen short in the past in counting all of its residents.
Veronica Arzate de Reyes, a partnership specialist for the U.S. Census Bureau in New Mexico, said they are looking for anyone and everyone to join their team to ensure the best results. She said her group has partnered with the Albuquerque Community Foundation, Taos Community Foundation and many more organizations to develop local strategies to count every person in the state.
“We are encouraging everyone to respond,” Reyes said, “especially if we are going into the Native American communities. We’d rather have a census worker that is from that area and they also speak the language.”
The 2020 census gets underway on March 12. Using modern technology, the Census Bureau has implemented new ways to submit the questionnaire. In addition to the mail-in version and the in-person door-to-door contact, the new ways include an online option and even a 1-800 number to record responses.
New Mexico is well known for its low response rate in past censuses. In 2010, New Mexico had a return rate of 65%, with the lowest return in the state coming from Catron County at 23%, compared to the highest return rate in the country, 81% in Wisconsin, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Brandale Mills, a media specialist for the U.S. Census Bureau in New Mexico, said that New Mexico is the most difficult state to count.
“We’ve really been concentrating on our hard-to-count communities and reaching out to the outlets within these areas…and making sure they understand the importance of responding to the survey,” Mills said.
Although people can choose to respond to the census online, New Mexico has many rural areas where the internet may not be reliable or even existent. For those residents, Reyes points to the 1-800 phone number as the next most convenient option.
“The beauty of calling in and doing it over the phone, there are 12 different languages available for people to have access to,” Reyes said.
The 12 languages will be the 12 most common in New Mexico.
Meanwhile, the Census Bureau is looking to fill a total of 11,000 positions in New Mexico. The positions include census takers, field supervisors, recruiting assistants, clerks, and some office supervisor positions.
“This is a good opportunity for students or people who might be in between jobs,” Reyes said. “If you have somebody that wants to work a couple of hours a day, we can accommodate your schedule, and a good pay.”
With the state unemployment rate being lower in 2020 compared to 2010, it is harder to find workers for the census, Mills said.
“We are trying to fill these positions and it’s important that we hire people from the community because they understand the area and they can connect better with those members of that community,” Mills said. “We want to make it a civic duty across the state.”
With all these efforts, the Census Bureau is hoping to have better results than in previous census years.
Dalton Padilla is a reporter for the New Mexico News Port. He can be reached on Twitter @journalistdalt or at firstname.lastname@example.org.