Census workers to target southern New Mexico

LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) — U.S. Census workers have started to drop off questionnaires at the front doors of some homes in Las Cruces and Dona Ana County as part of an effort to target households that don’t receive mail at their physical address.

The Census Bureau began hand-delivering materials March 15 but had to suspend all fieldwork just days later due to the coronavirus outbreak. That work is resuming now that field offices have been deemed essential businesses.

“Many of our residents are experiencing loss of their income and are concerned about food security and access to healthcare,” said Jamey Rickman, a community engagement manager. “With an accurate count, we can have the federal funding that we need to help them.”

Residents in other southern New Mexico counties also will be getting the forms. Those include Catron, Chaves, Curry, De Baca, Eddy, Grant, Hidalgo, Lea, Lincoln, Luna, Otero, Roosevelt, Sierra, Socorro and Valencia.

There's no timeline for reopening the field offices in Albuquerque or Window Rock, Arizona, which collectively cover the remainder of New Mexico counties. Together, officials say those two field offices serve more than 100,000 New Mexico households that are still waiting for their census packets.

Nearly 20% of New Mexico households — one of the highest rates in the country — rely on hand-delivery of their census forms.

Officials say census employees will be following current federal health and safety guidelines, including social distancing protocols, as they drop off questionnaires.