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Arizona Groups Scramble For U.S. Census Responses In Final Hours Of Survey

By Steve Goldstein
Published: Thursday, October 15, 2020 - 12:53pm
Updated: Thursday, October 15, 2020 - 12:56pm

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census forms
Christina Van Otterloo/KJZZ
Census information sheets.

STEVE GOLDSTEIN: A ruling by a majority of the Supreme Court has put an early stop to the U.S. census count. It had been scheduled to finish on Oct. 31, but that was moved up a couple of weeks by the Trump administration and the high court approved it. That means the official count ends [Oct. 15] at midnight, causing a scramble among a diverse variety of groups trying to get the percentage of respondents to be as high as possible. Earlier, I spoke with Yolanda Medina. She is census outreach coordinator for One Arizona. She began by explaining where some of Arizona's response percentages are.

YOLANDA MEDINA: There is a percentage, but we're continuing to get updates as we go, which is a little bit frustrating. So I, I can say there is. But again, it's a little bit frustrating right now, an extremely disappointing outcome of where we're at. I keep repeating this, that a rushed census count is an inaccurate count.

GOLDSTEIN: Can you talk about the frustration? More specifically, how much this could potentially change things and how much in some ways to some people really contradicts the mission of what the census is supposed to do?

MEDINA: Yes. So we feel beyond frustrated not only because our hearts and souls went into this work, but also for our communities who are being cheated on their needs for the next 10 years. A lot of community organizations did so much work here in the state of Arizona. And, you know, the reason why we committed to doing this work is because we wanted to make sure that we will be counted because we knew what was at stake. And this administration also knew that, you know, what was on stake, and they tried tire — tirelessly to jeopardize our work and to make sure our communities would continue to be marginalized. So it has been really disappointing to hear the news that the census deadline is Oct. 15.

GOLDSTEIN: Have you heard from other people who are being — who've been part of the effort? Have you guys talked about this and, and sort of shared your frustration?

MEDINA: We have and we share a common frustration because of all the work that we put into ensuring that we count specifically marginalized communities — communities of color here in the state of Arizona and especially through COVID-19.

GOLDSTEIN: Yolanda, we know that minority communities are disproportionately undercounted. Can you give us an idea of what communities could see the biggest impact as a result of this over-counting, what it looks like on the ground?

MEDINA: Yes, we know many of the fundings that are provided are for the next 10 years. We have, you know, communities of color that appeal these resources every day. That is, for if they're going to get access, you know, to education for those families that can provide food for their children, they're able to be part of programs that provides free food for children. We also know families that are growing and that need assistance — medical assistance are able to obtain medical assistance. Students as well who don't have necessarily the funding to continue on their education, they're able to apply for different programs so that they can continue their education. Our homeless population as well are one of the many that are going to be affected, as we know, on their many services throughout the state of Arizona that are obtained due to a lot of the data that we receive back from the census. So those are a few that are going to be affected.

GOLDSTEIN: Just how much of a difference do you think having those extra couple of weeks could have meant to have a real comprehensive count?

MEDINA: It would make such a difference. I tell a lot of the partners and folks that I talked to that it makes a difference, even if it's one person that filled out the census — that is already making a difference and adding that data so that we can have the resources we need for communities here in the state of Arizona.

GOLDSTEIN: So tell me what is going to happen over the next 24 hours or so in terms of, with October 15th at midnight being the deadline, is there a major effort that can be compressed from two weeks down to a day and a half? Is there any way to do the work that needs to be done in this short amount of time?

MEDINA: I will continue to tell folks to go to or call the 844-330-2020 number and respond now. If they already filled out the census, have their family members complete that census form as soon as possible.

GOLDSTEIN: We've seen so many dramatic changes in 2020 that it seems ridiculous to try to look 10 years ahead. But as you said, the census is, in effect, these changes, the funding in effect for 10 years until the next census comes along. In a different, very different way, we saw the impact that SB 1070 had in terms of getting people active, frankly, and saying that we want to make sure that we're in leadership to make sure some of these things aren't able to happen again. Do you see any possibility that maybe 10 years from now people will think about how maybe they were short-changed with the census and be more active about it and try to make sure they're more involved?

MEDINA: I think so. We have a very resilient community here in Arizona that right now is out there talking to communities. Residents in Arizona are walking, you know, during this heat. I do have hope that our communities are going to continue to thrive and are going to continue to put that work so that we can move Arizona forward.

GOLDSTEIN: Yolanda Medina is census outreach coordinator for One Arizona.

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