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ELOY — Earlier this month the U.S. Census Bureau announced that the final day to responded to the 2020 census was moved up to Sept. 30, one month earlier than previously announced.

Due to COVID-19, gathering responses to the questionnaire in some counties has lagged, and Pinal County is facing an additional struggle with Hispanic households.

While it is unknown why the self-response numbers are low among Hispanics, Census Partnership Specialist Maria Cardenas wants the public to know that there are different ways to respond to the census and that all of the information is confidential.

“We do have Spanish-speaking census takers out in the field,” Cardenas said. “Also the questionnaire online is in Spanish and 12 other languages, and if you call us by phone, we have up to 58 languages with a live representative talking to you and helping you respond to the census.”

Due to the pandemic, the Census Bureau had to halt its field operations briefly but has since resumed, with all those involved following U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

Originally the plan for the 2020 census was to make it available online and by phone so that people could answer the survey from the comfort of their own home.

“We’re encouraging people to do it from their home to not have to interact with any census takers,” Cardenas said. “It takes five to ten minutes of their time and it will make an impact for the next ten years. (The census takers) are wearing their PPE (personal protective equipment), and they’re keeping their social distancing of six feet, and they’re trying not to enter the specific households that need to be counted.”

Cardenas added that while everything is on track to be completed by the deadline, the Census Bureau is encouraging those who have not responded yet to do so either online, by phone or by mail rather than waiting for a census taker.

The census takers make six attempts for households to respond and leave a notice each time, highlighting the other ways people can respond.

A big concern for the Hispanic communities revolved around the citizenship question, which was not included in the questionnaire. According to Cardenas, there are only nine questions.

“We want to let the Hispanic community know that the census is easy, and it’s confidential,” Cardenas said. “It’s mandated in the Constitution that we cannot share the information with any other federal agency including immigration services.”

Arizona has a 60.8% self-response rate, which is lower than the national rate of 64.4%.

In overall self-responses, Pinal County has a 55.6% rate, which is close to the 55.7% rate it had in 2010. In western Pinal County, the city with the highest response rate is Casa Grande with 60.9%, followed by Maricopa at 57.7% and Eloy at 54.8%. Coolidge has a 54% response rate and Apache Junction’s rate is 51.9%. Florence has the lowest response rate at 48.4%.

“We’re talking about 12% to 13% difference on self-responses and that’s why there’s a push from the Pinal County supervisors to also provide information to the residents in Spanish,” Cardenas said. “Supervisor (Pete) Rios made a video in Spanish because we’re feeling that the Hispanic population in Pinal County is not receiving the information because it’s not in their own language. Hopefully, after all the information in Spanish, people will feel comfortable and do it on their own.”

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Maria Vasquez is a reporter covering Eloy, Arizona City and sports. She can be reached at mvasquez@pinalcentral.com.

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