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Census data could impact vulnerable communities in Southern Arizona

Posted at 8:52 PM, Apr 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-27 01:13:34-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — "It is a bit of a disappointment to know that we're in a growing state but with no growing potential support," Lydia Aranda, with "Chicanos Por La Causa," said.

The mood after Census data was released left some organizers in the state hoping for more, in several aspects:

First, they were hoping the state could see more federal funding, which might just stay the same.

The census data could've added another member of Congress to Arizona's delegation, which didn't happen.

But University of Arizona government professor Barbara Norrander says there's still a glimmer of good news in the data released Monday morning.

"It doesn't mean that population in Arizona isn't growing, it is growing, it just didn't grow as fast as was expected," she said.

Norrander said it's been over a half century since Arizona didn't grow enough for the Census.

"Probably in the 1950s or the 1960s," she said.

So what does it mean for the state?

Professor Norrander said not to expect new funding from Washington.

"There are actually over 300 federal programs where the funding that goes to the state or the local government is based on the population in the census," Norrander said. "Health programs, such as medicaid, transportation money for construction of roads."

Arranda said communities in Southern Arizona could feel that pinch if they haven't already.

"Schools to wellness programs to sports and activities... and if there's no new funding, we are already stretching the dollars as far as they can go," she explained.

The Census data, she added, could impact schools and small businesses in rural areas of the state.

"Particularly things like connectivity," Norrander said.

"It was a very tough year to organize during the Census," said Anakarina Rodriguez, who helped organized Census workers for the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials.

She and other organizers said the pandemic presented a new challenge to an already difficult task of educating communities about the Census.

"There was a lot of hard work. A lot of days that we didn't get any chance to go home 'til late," Justin Lloyd said.

He spent last year working to get the African-American community involved in the Census process.

"We had a deadline that got changed numerous times," he said.

"We knew that so many communities were going to be left out of the count," Rodriguez said.

The very same communities she was afraid would be left out this next decade.

"Immigrant community, the latino community, the black community, our indigenous community," she added.