Home Census Colorado’s mountain towns feel more crowded than ever. But census data shows that the population has barely changed.

Colorado’s mountain towns feel more crowded than ever. But census data shows that the population has barely changed.

Creede City Administrator Janelle Kukuk found her 2020 U.S. Census form hanging from this post at the exit of her out-of-town property. During the winter, the gate is closed and only residents have access to it. Five miles from the locked door of Janelle’s house. Many census forms were left on door posts or thresholds and an unknown number were lost as a result. Although Creede had an 85% response to the Kukuk census things, it could have been a higher percentage if so many forms hadn’t been misplaced or lost. The small brown box is for parcels.
Dean Krakel / Special for The Colorado Sun

Mick Ireland knows the streets of Pitkin County. The 30-year-old former Aspen mayor and politician has knocked on the doors of thousands of his neighbors over the years, promoting candidates and voting issues as well as helping register voters.

So when the 2020 census report showed whole blocks in Pitkin County — not city blocks, but the small geographic areas into which the US Census Bureau divides the country — with zero populations, it took some note. Using the county’s geographic information system – GIS – mapping, he began to find more blocks across the county that appear to have been missed by the 2020 census. In some blocks, the census counted fewer than houses despite new construction.

“I know those buildings just haven’t gone away. My estimate is that around 1,000 people have not been counted,” said Ireland, who is working with county leaders to put together a detailed list that could become an official 2020 census challenge.

Other counties are doing the same. After enumerators struggled to count every U.S. resident for them during the chaotic pandemic, more Colorado counties are seeing discrepancies with the tally that will determine how many federal dollars are given to communities. (The 2010 census showed that 316 federal spending programs relied on the 2010 tally to distribute about $1.5 trillion in annual spending. Colorado receives about $19.2 billion a year in funds guided by the census, which equates to about $3,500 per capita.)

So a count that misses 1,000 in Pitkin County could cost the county $35 million over the next decade.

“That’s a big amount of money we’re talking about,” Ireland said.

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