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PALMDALE — There’s still time to make sure you count.

Local officials are urging Antelope Valley residents who have not yet answered the Census 2020 questionnaire to do so, as an accurate count is vital to many programs and services.

The information gathered is used for everything from setting the number of representatives in Congress to determining funding for schools and roads.

April 1 was the official day to begin the count for Census 2020, the process stipulated in the US Constitution to take place every 10 years, to capture a snapshot of the country’s population.

As of last week, Los Angeles County has a response rate of 58.2%, lower than the statewide rate of 63.2%.

Closer to home, the Antelope Valley’s response rate stands slightly lower at 55%.

“It needs to get a lot better than that,” said Nardy Lopez, city of Palmdale management analyst and the city’s liaison for the census.

To help increase responses, the city of Palmdale is turning to a raffle, with entry being proof of completing the Census 2020 questionnaire. Prizes in weekly drawings will gift cards to local grocery stores, with a grand prize of $1,000.

“It helps everybody all around,” Lopez said, from the raffle winners to the participating stores to the government officials looking to increase the response rate.

The first drawing, held live on social media, will be on July 20, with four winners selected each week, one per Council District.

For the final drawing, on Aug. 24, all entries will be combined for the grand prize.  

To enter, Palmdale households need to provide their Census 2020 confirmation number, showing they have completed the questionnaire, and fill out the Palmdale Counts Challenge form, available on the city Web site at www.cityofpalmdale.org/PalmdaleCountsChallenge

“The main thing here is that people fill out their Census form,” Lopez said.

“The results of the 2020 Census will help determine how hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal funding will flow into our community every year for the next decade,” Mayor Steve Hofbauer said. “This is funding that is used for critical transportation services in our community, including maintenance and construction of our roads, and improvement of infrastructure and utilities.  Our contest is simply a fun way to get the word out on how important it is to be counted and it gives residents a chance to win prizes. It’s a win-win situation!”

More than a year ago, the US Census Bureau teamed with numerous local governments, agencies, community groups and others to prepare for this year’s count, hoping to generate the greatest amount of public participation.

Just as those preparations were coming to peak, as notices were being sent out to tell people of the April 1 start date and of the several ways to participate, COVID-19 hit, and with it the preventative measures that required people to stay at home as much as possible.

These public health measures have meant most Census 2020 outreach plans were no longer feasible and left organizers scrambling to get the word out by other means.

“This time has been such a challenge,” Lopez said, requiring a real shift in efforts to reach people. “We really had to look at how do we do this.”

The raffle is the latest effort, based on what has been successful in other communities, Lopez said.

Earlier efforts to promote the census included a caravan on June 17, presented with Antelope Valley Partners for Health in Lancaster and Palmdale.

Parades of decorated cars wound through each city in areas that have had particularly low response rates, hoping to draw attention and provide information about the count.

Residents may fill out a Census form online at my2020census.gov, by phone in English at  844-330-2020 or in Spanish at 844-468-2020, or by mail by sending back the questionnaire mailed out to household to: US Census Bureau, National Processing Center, 100 Logistics Ave., Jeffersonville, IN 47144.

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