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Coronavirus Poses New Challenges for Counting Older Coloradans in Census

The U.S. Census Bureau has extended the deadline for collecting data to Oct. 31 because of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. (US Census Bureau)
The U.S. Census Bureau has extended the deadline for collecting data to Oct. 31 because of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. (US Census Bureau)
April 16, 2020

DENVER -- Colorado's foundations are going all in on efforts to ensure an accurate count in the 2020 census, and with daily life upended by the coronavirus pandemic, the call is out for creative ways to engage all Coloradans in the once-a-decade tally.

The Denver-based NextFifty Initiative is handing out $750,000 in grants to groups that can reach hard-to-count older adults across the state.

Diana McFail, the private foundation's president and CEO, says previous outreach plans relied on person-to-person contact and community gatherings.

"With those being taken out of the realm of possibility because of COVID, it's really important now more than ever to raise awareness and educate older adult populations of the importance of Census 2020 participation," she stresses.

More than $1.5 trillion in federal tax funds each year are at stake, including hundreds of millions of dollars distributed to Colorado for programs that the state's residents rely on, including education, veterans, health care, housing and children's programs, road construction and more.

McFail points to estimates showing that 50% of people who directly benefit from funding based on census numbers go uncounted.

McFail says older residents are at risk of being missed because of a variety of factors, and warnings about government imposter scams during the public health crisis add to those challenges.

"A mixture of fatigue, misinformation, fear, apathy, isolation or even lack of access can really suppress the accurate count of people who will benefit most from future services," she points out.

This year's census also is the first to be conducted online, so McFail is hoping to receive proposals that help educate Coloradans on the new methodology.

To submit your group's ideas to put grant money to work getting all Coloradans counted, visit www.next50initiative.org, and check out the Census Outreach 2020 Fund through the funding link.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO