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Census in the spotlight as coronavirus roils economies

While the response rate in Clark County to the 2020 census is close to state and national averages since it kicked off March 12, officials are framing the importance of participation in a new light due to the coronavirus epidemic.

“With the economic challenges we face as a result of coronavirus, it’s more important than ever that Nevada’s entire population is counted in the 2020 census so we get the funding and representation we deserve from Washington,” Clark County Commissioner Justin Jones said in a statement Wednesday.

The once-a-decade census will inform how much federal funding is distributed to Nevada, which is expected to lose out on $20,000 over the next 10 years for each person not counted. In 2010, only 60 percent of Nevadan households participated in the census, meaning the state missed out on 40 percent of the funding it could have had for certain services and programs, county officials said.

In this census, there is more than $6 billion at stake in Nevada for funding to health care, schools, transportation and other community essentials.

But with the coronavirus roiling local and state economies amid sweeping business closures and social distancing orders, officials are underscoring that ensuring the state gets every federal dollar it can is more paramount than ever for recovery.

County Manager Yolanda King has told county employees the county expects to lose over $1 billion in revenue over the next 12 to 18 months, including at University Medical Center and McCarran International Airport.

“We are going to need every federal dollar we deserve from data derived from this year’s census to serve our community when we put COVID-19 behind us,” Commission Chairwoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick said in a statement.

About 45.9 percent of households in the county have filled out census forms, the county said Wednesday, slightly behind the 46.2 percent national average and just ahead of the 45.3 percent statewide figure.

Beyond determining federal funding, the census results will also inform congressional apportionment.

The Census Bureau is operating toll-free language assistance lines in many languages including the three most common spoken in Southern Nevada: 844-330-2020 for English; 844-468-2020 for Spanish; and 844-478-2020 for Tagalog.

The bureau is also offering American Sign Language support with a toll-free Telephone Display Device number: 844-467-2020. Households that do not respond early online or by phone will receive a paper questionnaire from the bureau that they can return by mail.

For more information on the census, visit Census.NV.gov.

Contact Shea Johnson at sjohnson@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0272. Follow @Shea_LVRJ on Twitter.

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