San Luis attempts to boost Census participation

A sign along Main Street  in San Luis reminds residents to be counted in the Census.

SAN LUIS, Ariz. -- A grant from the National League of Cities will help San Luis boost the number of its residents who are counted in the 2020 Census.

The city plans to use the $15,000 to set up computer stations where residents can complete the Census questionnaire online, and to launch a publicity campaign urging them to participate in the count.

Census figures help determine cities’ and counties’ individual shares of federal and state funding. And given only 9% of San Luis residents had been counted as of May 18, the city could lose out on a large amount of money.

City Hall planned at the beginning of this year to stage neighborhood events around San Luis to help residents complete the online questionnaire.

“But that plan was suspended by the (COVID-19) pandemic (and the need for social distancing),” said Jose Guzman, the city’s planning and zoning director. “Now, whenever it is possible and is safe, we’re going to set up tables where there will be a computer and help for residents filling out the questionnarie. We’re thinking it can be in the library or in churches.”

The money from the grant will also go to purchase advertising in newspapers, television, radio and other media to remind the public to be counted, he added.

Elsewhere in the area as of May 18, 49.5% of Yuma residents and 22% of Somerton residents had been counted.

The participation rate for San Luis in 2010 was 56.1%. Guzman said the city set a goal of 100% participation this year. As an incentive, it is entering residents in a free drawing for prizes if they present proof of having completed the questionnaire. The deadline for them to enter the drawing is June 29.

Guzman said the Census field office suspended the distribution of Census questionnaires in the area in March to protect volunteers from the coronavirus. He said he hopes more residents will be counted now that the office is resuming those efforts.

He said 2020 marks the first time the city has promoted the internet as a method for residents to count themselves in the Census.

“The research that has been done tells us that only 64% of the population has internet access, and that could be a factor for us having a low response. So that’s why we are planning the Census events, so that those people who don’t have internet can come and receive help to fill out the questionnaire. We hope to be able to do it soon.”

San Luis residents, he said, need to “help their community by answering the questionnaire. The population determines the funds that come in for the schools, hospitals, for school meals and many other services. Participation makes a difference.”

To be counted, residents can visit my2020census.gov, or call 844-468-2020 for Spanish speakers, or 844-330-2020 for English speakers.

For information about the Census drawings offered by the city, the public can visit census2020.sanluisaz.gov.

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