Maricopa is gearing up for next year’s decennial U.S. Census.
Data from Census Bureau has become so important some cities, including Maricopa, funded special counts in off-years to try to prove their population. Population can help a company decide whether to invest in a community and it can decide if it’s time for a new congressional district.
There are changes to the way the census will be taken in 2020, and the City has formed a Complete Count Committee to educate the public and encourage them to participate. For instance, households will receive an “invitation” to complete the census survey online.
“Part of the encouragement,” said Dale Wiebusch, the City’s director of Intergovernmental Affairs, “is that the data is driven both by the monetary factor and political representation.”
Wiebusch heads the committee, which meets monthly to talk about strategy. He invited 50 participants, with up to 14, with a handful at any given meeting. The committee, he said, is comprised of people who can reach diverse groups, especially those who could be missed because of language barriers or lack of technology.
In the recent census campaigns, the city saw where portions of the population did not comply, including areas of the Heritage District. That is where committee members can step in to better explain the process and necessity of the census.
He said the census count would impact federal and state funding.
“There are 50 or more federal programs that rely on census data for disbursement of funds,” he said, adding that figure could be $3,000 per person.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, about 95 percent of households will receive census invitation by mail. Almost 5 percent will have their census invitation dropped off at their home. Less than 1 percent will be counted by a census taker.
“We do this in very remote areas like parts of northern Maine, remote Alaska and in select American Indian areas that ask to be counted in person,” the Bureau explained in unattributed documents. The department is based in Maryland and directed by Steven Dillingham.
Wiebusch said he would like to see the City have library computers dedicated to the census for those who do not have the Internet at home. The main census activity will take place in March and April, with reminders and other wrap-up activities into June.
Census invitations will begin going out in the mail in mid-March. If the household has not responded, a reminder letter will go out, and a reminder postcard, then a reminder letter and a paper questionnaire and then an in-person follow-up.
The project goes in stages, with Maricopa due to start its portion April 1.
“I find it hilarious we would do it on April Fool’s Day,” Wiebusch said.
Unlike a special census, the decennial census will count everyone who declares their main residence to be Maricopa, even if they live here only six months out of the year and even if they are not citizens.
Wiebusch emphasizes there is no “citizenship question” on the 2020 U.S. Census.
“I know a lot people think that’s about those without documentation,” he said, “but we have Canadians and we have a lot of other ‘snowbirds’ who live here a lot of the year.”
The City of Maricopa is working with Maricopa Association of Governments and Riester, a Phoenix-based advertising firm, to help with preparations for the census and outreach.
This story appears in the September issue of InMaricopa.