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Local online concerts, prizes to encourage census counts

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With just over 50% of Lea County residents having completed the 2020 U.S. Census Survey, and the newest deadline set at Sept. 30, local entertainers are coming to the rescue.

Lea County Manager Mike Gallagher and Hobbs Communications Director Meghan Mooney, both heads of respective the Complete Count Committees, announced a series of five weekly online concerts starting Thursday at 7 p.m.

They also announced more than $5,000 in prizes to be awarded to random residents who watch the concerts and complete their census surveys.

The Lea County Tiny Census Concerts (TCC) series of local performers will begin with the Justin Kemp Band.

“The idea originally came from iCount NM,” Mooney said, referring to a series created and hosted by the group strategizing for the entire state’s complete count on the 2020 Census. “The initial motivation for us to do this was to get our local performers highlighted. So many events have been shut down (by COVID-19 restrictions) and that is their income. That’s their passion and they haven’t been able to do it like normal.”

Gallagher pointed out everyone who lives in the county counts toward multiple funding opportunities for the next 10 years, as well as businesses that count on population figures for determining whether to become involved in the area.

“Every person here matters and should be counted. Regardless of a person’s citizenship or immigration state, regardless of a person’s age, gender or race, everyone is counted equally,” Gallagher said.

“It matters because getting everyone counted helps us better paint the picture of Hobbs, Jal, Eunice, Lovington, Tatum and Lea County for funding for our school districts, public safety, roads, any item you can imagine where the cities, counties or school districts may compete for funding or our piece of the pie. Our piece of the pie gets bigger when we have more mouths to feed … whether that pie is federal funds or state funds,” Gallagher continued.

Mooney tied the census issue to the pandemic that has justified federal extension of the census period.

“If we want to fully recover from this pandemic, then we need to represent ourselves accurately. The only way we can do it is with the census,” Mooney said. “In the next 10 years, if we want to fully recover and get everything we know we deserve because we have the population here, we need to make sure everyone is counted.”

Noting New Mexico is considered the hardest state in which to conduct a census, Mooney cited the rural nature of the state, occasional language barriers and concerns about privacy.

Attempting to allay privacy fears, Mooney reiterated provisions of a law that seal personal information for 72 years and threaten a $250,000 fine and five years imprisonment for any census official who violates that law.

Gallagher ticked off three of the five planned online concerts.

“We’re starting the series off with a great band, the Justin Kemp Band. He’s starting off on Thursday, Aug. 20. He is a familiar face in the area, a familiar crowd-pleasing band. Everyone loves JKB,” Gallagher said. “We have Tim Cummings on Sept. 3. We used to find Tim at a number of different restaurants, a number of different patios, performing on Thursday or Friday nights. We’re going to have Gigi Hess on Sept. 17. Gigi was a contestant on ‘The Voice.’”

Additional performers are to be announced later, he said.

Mooney added that 10 gift cards, valued at $100 each, from local businesses will be given out during each concert.

The concert series will be on Facebook Live feeds on the City of Hobbs and Lea County’s Facebook pages.

Gift cards were purchased from local Lea County businesses, including Brown’s Shoe Fit Co., Martin Boot Co., Albertsons Market, Drylands Brewing Co., Taqueria Jalisco’s, Jimenez Rancho Grande, Undergrounds Coffee Co., Outlaw Grill, Kountry Korral, Pizza Inn and Cornerstone Coffeehouse. Each business’s gift card is for $100.

Returning to the piece of the pie metaphor, Gallagher said, “What we are trying to do is remind people of the importance of the census in a fun way. … We want the biggest piece of the pie that we can get. The more people who help out, the bigger our piece of the pie.”

The official deadline to complete the 2020 Census is Sept.

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