Council Supports ‘Count Me In’ Initiative to Avoid Undercount in 2020 Census

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Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

A sign announces the Grand Opening of the San Antonio Area Census Offices on Oct. 10.

San Antonio City Council members will participate in awareness efforts to make sure Bexar County residents are counted in the 2020 U.S. Census, most members said.

The local Complete Count Committee, a group of 53 City- and County-appointed volunteers whose aim is to reach the hardest-to-count populations, will be coordinating efforts and messaging with the U.S. Census Bureau. Committee co-chairs and City staff dedicated to the effort provided an update on their work to City Council on Wednesday.

“This might be one of the most important things that this council does,” Nirenberg said, noting that the counts inform how much money Texas and its cities receive for critical services.

Nirenberg said the committee should feel comfortable asking for more resources if other plans fall through.

The Texas Legislature failed to pass a measure this year that would have created and funded a statewide initiative to ensure all Texans are counted in the national 2020 Census, so cities across the state are picking up the tab. Meanwhile, states like California are investing $187 million in counting efforts.

The City of San Antonio allocated $392,000 for outreach and marketing and the Complete Count Committee has reached out to foundations and other organizations – including the Census Equity Fund, Hogg Foundation, and an unnamed local foundation – for an additional $430,000.

“Don’t be afraid to ask because we need to get this right,” Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran (D3) said, adding that she and other Council members should use their social and professional networks to promote the awareness efforts.

If Texas’ population is undercounted by just 1 percent, the state could stand to lose an estimated $300 million in federal funding a year for the next 10 years, according to a report by the Center for Public Policy Priorities.

In 2017, the City of San Antonio and Bexar County received $11.3 billion from the federal government, said the City’s Census Administrator Berta Rodriguez.

And Texas is home to some of the fastest-growing cities in the nation, including San Antonio. Texas could stand to gain three or even four congressional seats.

“An adequate count means adequate representation and adequate funding,” Rodriguez said.

While the buzz has already started about the census, a formal launch of the awareness campaign, is slated for January, she said.

Residents will start receiving invitations to fill out the online census form in March and will get several reminders. A letter and a paper questionnaire will then be mailed to non-respondents. May through July, census enumerators will visit addresses that have still not responded.

There will be a large coordinated messaging campaign, using the moniker “Count Me In,” to let residents know that there is no longer a new citizenship question and to reassure residents that their answers will not be shared with other entities, Rodriguez said.

The Census Bureau conducts a comprehensive count every 10 years. The decennial count asks demographic questions such as the age, sex, and race of the people who live in a home.

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