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The 2020 Census appealed to a sense of competition innate in the human spirit to boost its response rates in Chaffee County as the information gathering period for the once-a-decade, constitutionally mandated count of the nation’s people comes to a close later this month.

And, with the results of the competition announced last week by April Obholz Bergeler, the county’s Census coordinator, Buena Vista can boast one more thing it’s better at than its southern siblings: filling out forms from the government during a specified time frame.

The competition was held from Aug. 23 to Aug. 31. The Census is pushing for self-responses because “they save the U.S. Census Bureau’s time and in turn save taxpayer dollars,” said Bob Christiansen, Chaffee County’s director of general administration.

“During the competition, Buena Vista achieved the largest increase in its self-response rate to the census. Buena Vista’s total increase was 0.7%. Salida’s was 0.5% and Poncha Springs had an increase of 0.2%, Obholz Bergeler said. “As a result, Chaffee County had an increase of 0.4%, bringing the county’s self-response rate to 56.6% as of Aug. 31.”

BV residents Drew Heimerl, Heather Threlkel and Billie Michalek won $100 gift cards to local grocery stores for filling out their census forms during the competition.

“I would like to express my gratitude to all residents who participated in the competition. The results from the population count will benefit all of our municipalities in countless ways. Buena Vista currently has a 56.1% self-response rate. Poncha Springs is at 53.8% and Salida has a 65.7% self-response rate,” said Buena Vista Town Administrator Phillip Puckett.

The current self-response rate for the county is now 56.7%. For those who have yet to complete their census, you have until the end of September to respond either on your own or with a U.S. Census Bureau field worker. Everyone who lived in the U.S. as of April 1, 2020, is required to be counted.

The results collects from the 2020 Census will form the basis of the official demographic information for Chaffee County and its municipalities for the next 10 years, which can factor in numerous ways into how the town receives outside funding.

“At a very high level, it really comes down to return on investment,” said town administrator Phillip Puckett, “whether that’s coming from a grant, from the state, or even federal, or local decision-making on investments.

“A lot of times, you’re looking at how many people will be served by that investment. So, when we fill out grant applications, whether it’s for water projects, street improvements, all those types of grants we go after, we have to use some official population count. … The Census really sets the foundation for the next 10 years.”

When the town applies for grants through GOCO to help fund things like parks or trails, for example, they use Census data in those applications. Future bids for funding to address issues like affordable housing would use economic data the Census collects.

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