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Report: Colorado Should Invest in Census Outreach

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Tuesday, February 12, 2019   

DENVER — Colorado should invest $12 million in state funds to ensure an accurate count in the upcoming 2020 Census. That’s the recommendation of a new report from the Colorado Fiscal Institute.

The U.S. Constitution requires the federal government to count every living person in the country every ten years. But Esther Turcios, policy analyst at the institute and the report's lead author, said due to a variety of factors – including a controversial citizenship question – the state could miss out on its share of Congressional seats and lots of federal money if it doesn't put some muscle into outreach.

"The 2020 Census is right around the corner,” Turcios said. “And if we care about making sure that Coloradans are well represented, we need to make sure everyone is counted - no matter who they are, where they live, what identities they hold."

Turcios said a lack of federal funding for the Census Bureau also could lead to an under-count of Colorado residents. And she added that even if a question about whether someone is a U.S. citizen is removed from the Census, the current climate surrounding immigration has stoked fear among many of the state's residents, and she worries they might not answer the door when Census workers come knocking.

Defenders of a citizenship question have argued it's necessary to protect voting rights. In January, a federal judge blocked the move to add a citizenship question, noting that the Trump administration broke a "smorgasbord" of federal rules, cherry-picked facts, and hid information from Census experts.

Turcios admitted that convincing Colorado lawmakers to use state money to pay for work mandated by the U.S. Constitution won't be easy.

“Twelve million sounds like a lot," she said, "but it means bringing in $8 billion to pay for programs that we all care about and and that we all benefit from, for programs that help pay for school lunches for our kiddos."

Other states, including Minnesota, Oregon and Virginia, already have earmarked state funds to ensure an accurate count.

The report's recommendations include targeted outreach to explain the importance of being counted and mobilizing volunteers who are known and trusted by hard-to-count communities, including immigrants, people of color, low-income and rural residents.

The legal battle over the Trump administration's citizenship question is widely expected to be resolved by the U.S. Supreme Court.


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