The Town of Sahuarita is getting ready to start raising awareness about the 2020 Census which plays an important role in receiving federal funding and determining legislative representation.
There is more than $675 billion in federal funding which is distributed according to census data. The census also determines how many representatives each state receives in Congress as well as where redistricting lines will be drawn in state and federal legislatures.
With so much riding on maximum participation, the town wants to ensure all residents get the word to file their census when it begins April 1. Assistant town manager Teri Bankhead said this will be the first census where the town has had a complete count committee which is getting the word out to residents.
The census is done every 10 years and at 25 years old Sept. 20, this will only be incorporated Sahuarita's second time. According to the Census Bureau's Response Outreach Area Mapper online, the bulk of the Town of Sahuarita is split into two parts — north and south — with Sahuarita Road as the dividing line. During the last census the northern part of the town had a 21.2 percent unresponsive rate and the southern half had a 23.4 percent unresponsive rate.
The town currently has a population of 30,282 people, according to 2018 Census Bureau estimates.
Some residents may have already noticed canvassers going to some homes in the town. The town's communications coordinator Mark Febbo some residents have already been asking the town why canvassers are here if the census isn't until next year.
According to the Census Bureau, address canvassing began Aug. 12, and is the first major field operation in the census process. Unlike previous years, the bureau was able to verify 65 percent of address through satellite imagery which only requires the hiring of around 40,000 people to verify the remaining 35 percent. During the last census the bureau hired 150,000 people to verify 100 percent of the addresses.
Canvassing is expected to continue through mid-October.
So how is the town spreading the word? With lots of community engagement.
Bankhead said the town has formed a Complete Count Committee with 27 people who are working with local businesses, schools, non-profits and government agencies to remind and encourage residents to participate in the census. The committee is headed by mayor Tom Murphy and is comprised of residents, officials and business and non-profit leaders.
The town will provide local partners with digital content which they can then print and handout to promote awareness. The town will also have a laptop available during the census which residents can use to fill out and file their questionnaires with the bureau.
One of the major changes which sets the 2020 census apart from previous years is the ability to complete the forms online, by phone and mail. However, to help those with limited or no internet access the town will provide a means at the municipal complex on Sahuarita Road.
The Sahuarita Food Bank has also talked about providing computer access to residents who need to be counted as well as handing out flyers leading up to the census, Bankhead said.
"Since (the bureau) is changing how they are doing it...it's important that individuals know how to access it, where to access it if they do not have a computer available," she said. "And so the library will have computers, we are planning to setup stations in the Biz Hub, (Town Hall), in the lobby. We just want to make sure we have access available."
So far, Bankhead said the different partners around town have been receptive to getting the word out.
"We have wonderful community partners that understand the importance of it and they want to participate," she said. "I think as we get closer we'll start to see more activity."
The committee has not been meeting during the summer, but Bankhead said it will be back at work next month. Come October residents can expect to start seeing more information from the town.