INDEPENDENCE — As of April 28, 60.8 percent of Polk County residents had responded to the 2020 Census, putting it ahead of the national response, which is 53.7 percent.

In Oregon, 56.5 percent of people had responded.

Ramón Martinez, Independence community engagement manager, is working to get that number higher.

In early February, before the state’s “Stay Home, Save Lives” order went into effect to slow the spread of coronavirus, Martinez was putting together a Census Assistance Center at the Independence Public Library.

The census is a Constitution-mandated count of every person living in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and five U.S. territories — Puerto Rico, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The U.S. Census Bureau, a nonpartisan government agency, conducts the census every 10 years.

The city received a $20,000 grant for a CAC from Census Equity Funders Committee of Oregon. The United Way of the Columbia-Willamette is the fiscal agent for CEFC.

The grant money went to buying computer stations and Chromebooks, and the city was going to hire two people to help residents complete the census.

The original plan was to have centers open from April 1 through the end of July.

Martinez has been in frequent contact with the We Count Oregon team working on ways to help people complete the census while keeping the social distancing rules that are currently in place.

The census is pretty straight forward, Martinez said, but he wants to be there to help anyone who has questions.

“We will be doing some videos in English and Spanish,” he said.

Some of the things he will address are what the census is, why people should take it and how to complete it.

He also plans to have census assistance rooms via Zoom.

There will be a virtual waiting room, he said, and he will be able to talk with people one-on-one in Spanish or English.

“The census is crucial because it’s able to help communities receive key federal dollars,” Martinez said. “It allows proportional representation in the political arena.”

The funding per person is about $3,200.

Census data also is critical for organizations that apply for grants; it is a way to prove a certain need in the community.

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