Sixty-seven billion dollars. That’s the amount of federal money census officials say Nevada stands to gain over the next decade. But with the current COVID-19 pandemic disrupting nearly every aspect of daily life, how are census takers ensuring an accurate count? KUNR’s Paul Boger spoke with Kerry Durmick, statewide census coordinator for Nevada Census 2020, to get an update.
Boger: In broad terms, how is the census going here in Nevada so far?
Durmick: Things are actually going pretty decently given the COVID-19 situation. Our response rate is currently at 36.2 percent, which is only 0.2 percent below the national response rate. So here in Nevada we actually are doing pretty well under the circumstances. We even have some counties that are responding in the upper thirties and 40 percent, counties like Clark County and Washoe and Churchill and Carson City and Lyon County. So things are actually going pretty well with the response rate so far.
Boger: Is 36.2 percent good?
Durmick: That's the response rate currently, but the census is not going to be over until August 14, so we still have until August 14 to respond. Given that we've only had 18 days of response in the state and the country, that is a pretty good number.
Boger: You mentioned the pandemic. How has your office shifted its outreach efforts? I assume you’re not going door-to-door right now.
Durmick: What we were focused on was community outreach through our own hosted events. So, how we have shifted is we have become more of a digital organizing operation at this point. We're going to host a bunch of different webinars. I'm going to be on two different webinars and then some of my staff will be doing webinars as well. And then also some of our partner organizations will be doing webinars about the census. So that's one way that Nevada Census 2020 has shifted. From the U.S. Census Bureau’s perspective, they have suspended field operations until April 15. Then after April 15, the census takers will start going door-to-door at the end of May, to follow-up on people that have not responded with the census.
Boger: What about outreach to minority communities, non-English speakers, poor neighborhoods? Has that changed at all?
Durmick: Luckily, before COVID-19 hit, my operation was able to do about a hundred census education events in those particular communities. So we have already formed relationships in those communities. Now we're able to connect those with those communities digitally. How I’m looking at it is, the U.S. Census Bureau operation has been suspended, but my operation hasn’t been suspended. That's a good thing. So my operation is still able to manage the media operation as well, but then also doing digital organizing. Then once the U.S. Census Bureau comes back online, they will be able to assist with any gaps or things that the Nevada Census 2020 operation is missing. So I think this is actually gonna work out okay given the situation that we're in right now.
Boger: There was a lot of controversy last year about a citizenship question. That was nixed last year by the courts. What questions should people expect to see on the census?
Durmick: The types of questions that are being asked are going to be things like your name, your birthdate, the relationships in your household, your phone number and your address. Those are the type of questions that you're going to expect on this year’s census form.
Boger: At the end of the day, what do people need to know about the census?
Durmick: The census is easy and you can do it right in your own home, right now, online or by phone or by mail. So we are hoping that people respond because they are at home and maybe they want something to do. Also, another reason they should respond is this is a small thing that you can do for your state that'll have a huge impact on your state. The census is going to possibly create over $67 billion in funding for the state of Nevada, and for every single Nevadan that is counted this year, it’ll create over $20,000 per person, for the state [over the next decade], which will go for things like public health and education and infrastructure, which the state is definitely going to need after the COVID-19 pandemic.