“The challenge is reaching residents who are the least likely to participate in the census – we’ve got to reassure them with a few simple truths: that it’s simple, anonymous, and oh-so-important to Gila County for funding over the next decade”

Tommie Martin

Gila County Board of Supervisors

If the once-per-decade census doesn’t start until April, why am I reading about it now? Participation is crucial, and community leaders from throughout Rim Country are on a Gila County team working to raise awareness and demystify the 2020 census to boost participation. The goal? Reach hard-to-count populations, reassure them the census is confidential – and will be more convenient than ever with options to complete yours online or by phone, in addition to the traditional census completed on paper. And why does Gila County need all 53,000 residents counted?

• Census data determines what percentage of $675 billion in federal dollars is distributed to Arizona - and Gila County - each year

• Payson and local communities need census data to plan for school district growth, the need for health clinics; fund economic development, provide social services - improve roads and bridges

• Arizona could earn a new congressional district, if census data confirms population growth. That trickles down to the Grand Canyon State having sway in congress and Electoral College votes

Talk about it

How can you help Gila County leaders promote the census? Talk about it. Remind your neighbors, your congregation or club.

“Besides the fact that its required by law, answering the U.S. Census is one of our most basic – and simple – responsibilities, whether you’re a U.S. citizen or not,” said Gila County Supervisor Tommie Martin.

“There are only ten questions, and so many programs that benefit Gila County residents are funded based on census data. Single moms, low-income families – rural economic development; budgets for these are based on census data.”

Martin uses her airtime on local radio to announce the census, and urges community leaders who have an audience to follow her lead: announcing it over the next seven months to constituents, students, staff and employees.

“The challenge is reaching residents who are the least likely to participate in the census – we’ve got to reassure them with a few simple truths: that it’s simple, anonymous, and oh-so-important to Gila County for funding over the next decade.”

If counting the population seems like a modern invention, consider the Christmas Eve sermon delivered by a local pastor, reminding his congregation of the gospel explaining that Mary and Joseph returned to Bethlehem for a population tally decreed by the Romans.

Thomas Jefferson led our first federal census in 1790; back then six questions asking the “head of family” name and the number of persons in each household in five categories. By comparison, the 2020 Census must count a diverse and growing population of around 330 million people – in more than 140 million housing units. For an accurate count the Census Bureau has an address list of every housing unit to push “self-response” to the census. And you should expect a follow-up visit next May or June, should you fail to respond.

Every 10 years the Federal Census Bureau counts the entire United States population; a new tally required by the Constitution and used to determine how many representatives Arizona has in the U.S. Congress, as well as to revise congressional district boundaries. Rim Country communities, and the Tonto Apache Nation as well, use population data to plan for schools, roads, and emergency services. Businesses study census demographic trends to choose new business openings.

Pre-Census Complete Count Committee

Gila County’s pre-census Complete Count Committee invites community leaders to organizational meetings throughout 2019. The goal? To announce and promote the census during the coming year – encouraging everyone in Gila County to participate. To RSVP to attend the next Complete Count Committee meeting, or to be added to the alert list – please call Stacey at 928-402-4336 or email sespinoza@gilacountyaz.gov

Convenient – and Confidential

Convenient with just 10 questions, for the first time in history you’ll be able to complete your census online or by phone. And it’s anonymous – by law. The Census Bureau is forbidden from identifying specific data or individuals. Adding some buzz to the 2020 count, the Census Bureau launched a new tool: Response Area Outreach Mapper (census.gov/roam) a website where anyone can view statistical data – and monitor census completion by communities and regions. Visit and you’ll find an odometer-like counter, tracking births in real time (one birth every 8 seconds, compared to a death every 11 seconds). Explore census.gov/quickfacts/gilacountyarizona for facts about Gila County. You may already know Gila County’s population is over 53,000 - but were you aware that:

• 28 percent are age 65 and older

• Race: 62 percent white, 18.7 percent Hispanic, 17.6 percent Native American or Alaska Native - and .8 percent Black or African American

• 5,500 are veterans, 72 percent live in an “owner occupied” home - with an average value of $153,000

• 85 percent are graduates of high school; 19 percent earned a bachelor's degree or higher

• 14 percent of those under age 65 don't have health insurance - a number nearly identical to the percentage of Gila County residents under age 65 who reported having a disability

• The Bureau reports 47 percent of the workforce over age 16 are employed, and it takes an average 18.7 minutes to travel to work. Median household income is listed as $41,179, with per capita income $22,433 - and 24 percent of the population living in poverty

• Business? Bureau statistics show 4,000 businesses – 1,800 owned by men, 1,495 owned by women, and 851 owned by minorities and 406 owned by veterans.

Contact the reporter 

tmcquerrey@payson.com

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