Census may be more important than ever

Thursday, March 12th was the first day 2020 Census information arrived in mailboxes. It was also the day I had hoped to send this email. With the COVID-19 crisis, however, my attention shifted to ensuring that the people of District 101 have the information and resources they need during this uncertain time.

It’s hard to believe that was just over two weeks ago. It feels like so much has changed in such a short amount of time and we’re nowhere near seeing the full impact that this virus will have on our communities. What we do know is that many in our state will need help and that we will need to find every available resource to meet those needs. The Census is instrumental to us getting the resources Texas needs.

Texas’ census count will determine whether our state receives its share of about $675 billion in annual federal dollars for critical items such as transportation, hospitals, social services, education, and much, much more. Missing just 1% of our state’s population in our count would reduce that amount by nearly $300 million each fiscal year.

Our census count directly impacts our state’s children. If Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, Head Start, school lunch programs, childcare, and other programs are not properly funded, Texas children will be hurt.

Our census count will help shape districts to determine representation in Washington, DC and in our state capitol. Plus, due to population growth, Texas stands to gain at least two more seats in Congress and two more electoral votes.

I suspect that if you’re reading this, you’ve probably already made it a priority to complete your 2020 Census. Thank you for doing your part. After you complete the questionnaire, I ask you to make sure that others do as well.

Who in Texas is more likely to be undercounted?

Children. Our state ranked #1 in undercounting kids during the 2010 Census. It is estimated that 102,406 children aged 0-4 weren’t reported. In Tarrant County, 6,800 children were missed, the majority of whom were Latino.

People of color. Earlier this month, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported about fears in the Latino community related to the 2020 Census. In the story, they quoted Mireya Flores, a Fort Worth mother, who said, I have family members that don’t have any papers. I don’t trust that they are not going to use it against us.”

Although this political stunt was ultimately blocked by the courts, the Trump Administration’s attempt to add a citizenship question to the Census will still contribute to mistrust within communities of color.

Renters. One-in-three Texans are renters, and the transient nature of renting makes it even more difficult to ensure that renters are counted.

Low-income Texans. Texas is home to the largest number of residents living in poverty, with over 4 million people living at or below the federal poverty level and another 5 million-plus living just above.

Unfortunately, Republicans in the Legislature failed to provide state resources for an accurate count. In contrast, California is spending $187 million on Census outreach — an investment that will ensure Californians receive their fair share of federal dollars and representation.

As a result of our state’s inaction, cities, counties, school districts, and other organizations are having to fill the gaps to ensure that everyone is counted and that they receive the resources they need. With the current COVID-19 crisis, these organizations, their budgets, and their capacity have been strained – making the gaps even more difficult to fill.

Before COVID-19 precautions were put in place, Census workers were scheduled to start knocking on doors, hosting events, and reaching out to those hard-to-count populations. Now that’s delayed.

I know that we are all trying to find ways to help one another out during this difficult time. One way is to help make sure that every Texan is counted.

Please talk to your family, friends and neighbors and remind them to go online and complete the 2020 Census. It may be more important this year than it ever has been before.