Responses to the census will help determine where more than $675 billion of federal funds will be allocated toward various fields, including infrastructure and public education.
Lewisville, Flower Mound and Highland Village leaders have partnered with the U.S. Census Bureau to form Complete Count Committees in an effort to increase awareness and participation on the census.
“It takes about 10 minutes to fill out the census, and people taking those 10 minutes will make a difference in the community for the next 10 years,” said Kent Boring, chair of the city of Lewisville’s Complete Count Committee.
A decade of impact
Beyond the allocation of federal funds, the census also helps determine how many seats each state has in the U.S. House of Representatives and the number of electoral college votes each state gets.
Boring, who is also the community outreach specialist for the city of Lewisville, said he has heard Texas could potentially gain a few seats in the House due to population growth.
Texas receives the third-most federal funds allocated among U.S. states, according to census data. But the state could lose $300 million if its population is undercounted by even 1%, according to the Texas Demographic Center.
Participation will affect communities on a local level, too. Census data helps determine how City Council districts are drawn and how much federal funding school districts get.
“Whether or not we get high participation and an accurate count of our community will have lasting impacts at every level,” Boring said. “Everything that we do as a city kind of hinges on that.”
Amanda Brim, Lewisville ISD’s chief communications officer, said the district is doing all it can to inform students and parents about the census’s impact on public education.
“With millions of dollars in federal funding at stake, Lewisville ISD knows an accurate count in the upcoming census is vital to the future success of our district and communities as well as our voice in government,” Brim said. “Many people are unaware data collected from the census helps determine funding for Title I grants, special education grants, free and reduced-cost lunch and more. LISD, alongside our cities and Denton County, intends to be a leader in ensuring an accurate population count for the 2020 census.”
Reaching hard-to-count populations
The cities of Lewisville and Denton have some of the highest concentrations of historically “hard-to-count” populations in Denton County, said Bianca Gamez, media specialist with the Dallas Regional Census Center.
Immigrants, college students, children under age 5, homeless people, people who face language barriers, families who move frequently and people with mental or physical disabilities are all considered to be hard to count, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Bureau statistics show that both Flower Mound and Highland Village saw relatively high participation in the 2010 census, with self-response rates of 84% and 86%, respectively.
In comparison, 72% of Lewisville residents responded to the census that same year.
“So in Lewisville, we do have more of some of the hard-to-count populations,” Gamez said. “So we are forming partnerships in those communities with nonprofits, community groups, local governments and other institutions to make sure not just the hard-to-count populations are counted but that everyone is counted.”
Stephen Thomas, director of the Salvation Army of Lewisville and a member of the Complete Count Committee, said he has provided census workers with a heat map of where people experiencing homelessness usually gather so they do not miss anyone in the count.
“We’re committed to getting everyone counted to yield the highest benefit for all of us,” Thomas said.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Hispanic and Latino residents are also often hard-to-count, partly because they often face language barriers. These residents also tend to be more suspicious over how census data is used, which also makes them more likely to be undercounted, the bureau stated.
Gamez said that every resident should rest assured that all individual census data is kept confidential. She said that every census worker takes an oath to do so. Any workers who break that oath would be fined $250,000 and face potential jail time.
“We’re the data nerds of the government,” she said. “Our job is just to collect data and provide it from an economic perspective, from a population perspective.”
What to expect
Residents should get mailed invitations to respond to the census starting March 12.
Those who do not respond will receive several reminder postcards before being visited by a census worker.
Gamez said the bureau will actually be able to track which households have not responded so it can send workers out to get in-person responses.
“This is going to be a big census for us. We just want to make sure that everyone is out and involved in their communities helping out and that we’re all working together to get them counted.”