In a June 9 update to the Travis County Commissioners Court, Travis County Census Program Manager John Lawler used the Montopolis and Riverside area of Southeast Austin as a case study of successful census grassroots outreach initiatives. That census tract accounts for 3,247 households, of which 86.1% are Hispanic or Latino. Travis County’s Hispanic-Latino Community Complete Count Committee, chaired by Precinct 4 Constable George Morales, employed targeted outreach to the area. According to Lawler, the Montopolis & Riverside census tract saw response increase from 27.8% to 35.8% between April 28 and May 18, growth he attributed to the committee’s efforts.
“We can actually see on a neighborhood level the impact that our effort made on folks getting counted,” Lawler said.
Outreach methods included direct phone calls as well as establishing contact at food pantries, churches and school lunch sites, according to Lawler. The larger Hispanic-Latino population has also been engaged through a bilingual social media campaign and radio messaging on local Spanish language stations.
Residents have until Oct. 31 to self-respond to the 2020 census, 120-days later than the original deadline, which was postponed due to coronavirus restrictions. According to the latest timeline presented by Lawler, Travis County census workers will begin following up with non-responsive residents by August 11.
So far, Travis County is the second-most responsive to the census of any large Texas County, with a 59.3% self-response rate, per data provided by Lawler that was updated May 31. However, Lawler said the state at large still lags behind other states that have placed a larger financial investment in census outreach efforts.