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Complete Count Committee discusses census strategies to ensure federal funding

Faribault’s Complete Count Committee met on Wednesday evening to discuss community outreach strategies in advance of the 2020 census. With millions in federal funding in the balance, along with representation in Congress and the state legislature, the stakes are high for Minnesota in this upcoming census.

With that in mind, Gov. Tim Walz kicked off a yearlong outreach campaign on April 1 with the goal of ensuring that every person in the state of Minnesota is counted. Across the state, Complete Count Committees have been formed with business, civic and nonprofit leaders to support the Census.

Minnesotans have traditionally had high census participation rates. In 2010, an estimated 81% of Minnesotans participated in the census, which ranked second out of the 50 states, trailing only Wisconsin.

Thanks to the high participation rate, Minnesota was able to keep eight congressional seats, but just barely. Had the state counted just 9,000 fewer people, Minnesota would have been left with its smallest Congressional delegation in more than a century. This year, Minnesota is once again at risk of losing a Congressional seat.

In addition to losing a Congressional seat, participation in the census is tied to federal aid money. Each person not counted in the census could cost the state as much as $28,000 in lost aid from the federal government over a decade. That means state and local governments will have less to spend on health care, education, roads, emergency services and social programs.

Here in Faribault, the Complete Count Committee chaired by Councilor Elizabeth Cap discussed strategies to reach out to traditionally undercounted communities, especially students, renters and recent immigrants. About 13% of Faribault residents were born in a foreign country, one of the highest shares of any city in greater Minnesota, and the city has a significant number of renters.

The Faribault Complete Count Committee had a presence at the Night to Unite/National Night Out event last month and at the Rice County Fair in July. The group plans on attending at least one event each month, and wants to advertise with signs around town in English, Spanish and Somali. They hope to secure a $750 grant from the Minneapolis Foundation to complete additional outreach tasks.

The Complete Count Committee plans to attend the 14th annual International Festival, a two-day pop-up market which will be held Oct. 18 and 19 at the Faribo West Mall. The event is hosted by the Faribault Diversity Coalition, an organization with which members of the Complete Count Committee want to build close ties.

In advance of the official 2020 Census Day on April 1, census forms will be distributed electronically or via paper between March 12 and 20. Several reminder postcards will be sent to those who have not yet filled out their census over the following six weeks.

Beginning in late April, Census takers will go door-to-door to collect census information for residents who did respond to the voluntary request to complete the census. Heather Slechta, an assistant to the city administrator who sits on the Complete Count Committee, said the Census Bureau is already accepting applications for census taker positions in the area.

Census takers will be off the doors by August, with state population totals and Congressional Apportionment transmitted to the president by the end of the year as required by law. Additional data will be released in spring of 2021.

{span}According to Census Bureau estimates from July 1, 2018, the state has grown roughly 6% since 2010. {/span}Most population growth has occurred in the Twin Cities metro area, with modest gains in outstate Minnesota. Rice County’s population has grown by around 4%.

Keeping up

Minnesota’s growth rate has been higher than many other Midwestern states, keeping Minnesota competitive in the race to retain its eighth congressional seat. But states like Florida and Texas have seen much faster growth rates.

That’s because population growth in recent years has been driven largely by the Latino community. According to Census Bureau data, Latinos accounted for 52% of America’s population growth from 2008 to 2018.

The Latino community has not only grown, it’s also become more diverse. Mexicans make up about 62% of America’s Latino community but that share is down slightly from a high of 66% in 2008. The Mexican community grew by about 15% from 2010 to 2017, just shy of the overall Latino growth rate of 16%.

Other Latino communities have increased a higher rate, including Guatemalans and Dominicans. No Latino group has grown faster than the Venezuelan community, which essentially doubled from 2010 to 2017 and has grown dramatically since.

Worldwide, more than 4 million Venezuelans have fled amidst an extreme economic political crisis and horrific crimes against humanity committed by the regime of Nicolás Maduro, as documented by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. The Organization of American States has projected that the number of Venezuelan refugees will double by the end of 2020.

Community's banks support American Heart Association

Five Faribault community banks have teamed up to support the American Heart Association this month as part of the Minnesota Bankers Association’s Community Impact Month.

While community banks across Minnesota traditionally support charitable causes during the month of September, each bank typically supports its own cause. The joint effort was organized by Jason Robinson, who works as assistant vice president of deposits and head of marketing at Reliance Bank.

Over the summer, Robinson talked with Allana Kern, who serves as a director of youth market with the American Heart Association, about what his bank could do to support the AHA’s programming during Community Impact Month. During the school year Kern focuses on increasing awareness of the importance of heart health in schools, but with school out for the summer, she was instead focused on securing corporate sponsorships.

Robinson then reached out to four banks — 1st United Bank, Premier Bank, Citizens Community Federal and the State Bank of Faribault. Each was eager to join in on a joint effort in support of the AHA’s work against heart disease, which is responsible for nearly one in three deaths in America.

Each Friday this month, staff at the five banks have worn red T-shirts to raise awareness of heart disease and encourage the public to donate any amount to the American Heart Association. So far, Reliance Bank alone has raised about $1,200 for the AHA.

For a donation of $10 or more to the American Heart Association, patrons can get their own red T-shirt at any of the banks. A donation of any amount earns the donor a paper heart placed on the wall in honor or in memory of a loved one.

The CDC has found that 80% of heart disease is preventable, and can be attributed to factors such as obesity, lack of physical activity, poor diet, and heavy alcohol consumption. With better habits, the CDC estimated in 2013 that some 200,000 deaths a year could be prevented, a majority of them involving persons under the age of 65.

The AHA takes on America’s heart disease epidemic by educating the public and providing research dollars. The AHA has become the leading nonprofit funder of cardiovascular research, and its campaign to train millions of young people in proper CPR techniques has saved countless lives.

For Robinson, the AHA’s important mission made it an ideal choice of charity to support for year’s Community Impact Month. He’s glad that the Faribault community banks have pulled together to support the cause and looks forward to working with them to support another charitable cause next September.

“We want to show that community banks support the community, and that when we all work together we can make great things happen,” he said.

Fire atop county offices limited to rooftop

An overnight fire at Rice County’s Government Services Building was likely blunted by a police officer who noticed flames coming from the Faribault building’s rooftop.

The fire started in a rooftop HVAC unit atop new construction, but was quickly extinguished once gas to the building was shut off, according to Faribault Fire Chief Dustin Dienst.

The officer saw the fire on the east side of the building around 2 a.m. Thursday, Dienst said. Firefighters, who were on scene within just a couple minutes, found damage to the HVAC unit only, though there was light smoke throughout an area of the building. No one was inside the building at the time and no one was injured.

County Administrator Sara Folsted and County Parks and Facilities Director Jake Rsyavy were on scene early Thursday, assessing needs and prepping for the workday ahead.

Mark Shaw, County Social Services director, said visitors won’t feel the effects of the fire, adding that the entry area for clients is in another portion of the building. All phone lines are open and working, he said.

By 9:20 a.m., Folsted said, all 125 employees affected were either telecommuting or had another space in the building to work from.

A deep cleaning of the building , that will include ductwork is planned for this weekend, said Rsyavy. All employees are expected to be back at their assigned work stations early next week.

Firefighters were on scene for less than an hour, Dienst said, noting how quickly they were able to contain the fire.

The east section of the building is part of a $7.3 million, 19,000-square foot expansion of the Government Services Building that included three new HVAC units. A second two-story addition is under construction on the north side of the building. Work began at the site last fall and was expected to be substantially complete in the coming weeks.

The new construction will allow for expansion of the Social Services and Public Health departments, create private conference areas for staff to speak with clients and make better use of existing space.

Large fans were brought in Thursday morning to help remove smoke from the area, and a cleaning crew worked to eliminate residual odors.

While the state fire marshal was on scene later Thursday morning, Dienst said foul play is not suspected. He also said the amount of damage in the area where the fire began may make it difficult to determine how it started.

Chromy, of New Prague, brings his collection of tractors to the New Prague Dozinky Festival every year, attracting a large crowd of onlookers. His collection began in 1980, and his tractors date back to 1918.

Mac Ferris looks for a hole in the Owatonna defense during Faribault’s 2017 season opener. The Falcons lost to the Huskies in 2017 and 2018, but look to bounce back Friday at home. (People’s Press file photo)