With all that’s happening in the world today, the upcoming 2020 Census probably isn’t top of mind for your household, but it remains critically important for the future of our region. Hear me out.
Texas has one of the largest risks of an undercount, due to a large number of hard-to-count populations, such as young children, immigrants, rural residents and people experiencing homelessness. Even just a 1% undercount could cost the state hundreds of millions in federal funds per year. Hundreds of millions! Per year!
In October 2019, the Foundation partnered with St. David’s Foundation and United Way for Greater Austin, alongside other local philanthropic organizations, to promote get-out-the-count efforts. The collective effort awarded grants totaling more than $400,000 to community-based organizations and Complete Count Committees to ensure hard-to-count communities in Bastrop, Caldwell, Hays, Travis and Williamson counties participates in the census.
We wanted to share a few reminders and resources about the 2020 Census and how you can participate in the time of COVID-19 and social distancing.
You can complete the census online
The intended plan for the 2020 Census is for a majority of responses to come from the online form.
The online questionnaire is available in the following languages: English, Spanish, Chinese (Simplified), Vietnamese, Korean, Russian, Arabic, Tagalog, Polish, French, Haitian Creole, Portuguese and Japanese. The Census Bureau is also offering web pages and guides in 59 non-English languages, including American Sign Language, as well as braille and large print.
Barriers to language and technology
Completing the census online is a great approach for many people to respond quickly and independently. However, more than 2 million Texas households don’t have access to high-speed Internet.
As such, many Texans will need to complete their census questionnaire over the phone or by mail. The paper census (mail) will be available in English and Spanish. By phone the census is available in 13 languages: Spanish, Chinese (Mandarin & Cantonese), Vietnamese, Korean, Russian, Arabic, Tagalog, Polish, French, Haitian Creole, Portuguese, Japanese and Telecommunication Device for the Deaf.
When you should complete the 2020 Census (hint: the time is now!)
Households began receiving mail from the U.S. Census Bureau on March 12 with detailed information on how to complete the questionnaire online or by phone. Households that haven’t completed their form by early April will begin to receive a paper questionnaire. Beginning in late-May, census takers will begin going door-to-door to households who haven’t responded. Completing your census now means that resources can be focused on the hardest-to-count communities.
In light of the COVID-19 outbreak, the U.S. Census Bureau has adjusted 2020 Census operations to protect the health and safety of Census employees and the American public while ensuring a complete and accurate count of all communities. The U.S. Census Bureau is on schedule to deliver apportionment counts to the President on December 31, 2020.
COVID-19 and the 2020 Census
As the COVID-19 health crisis continues to develop here in Texas, there is a public health risk for census takers attempting to finalize a complete count through door-to-door interactions. Now more than ever, it’s important for those who are able to complete the census online, by phone or by mail to ensure a complete count for our state and to mitigate additional public health risks.
What you can do
- Talk about the census with your network (family, friends, co-workers, neighbors)! Make sure they’re informed about what the census is, why it’s important and how to complete it.
- Take advantage of the online questionnaire option as your resources allow.
- Most importantly – complete your household’s census form!
Additional 2020 Census resources
- United Way for Greater Austin – Central Texas 2020 Census resources
- Austin Asian Complete Count Committee
- Center for Public Policy Priorities 2020 Census in Texas
In these times of crisis for many of us, please remember the great resource we have in 2-1-1, a free social service hotline available 24/7 in all of Central Texas. 2-1-1 call specialists can answer questions related to the Census, COVID-19 and the community resources available to meet our daily needs. They can also transfer callers to any of the 13 Census language lines available to respond to the census.
As a reminder, the 2020 Census will not include a question about an individual’s citizenship status. Your Census responses are safe and confidential. Information collected, as part of the 2020 Census cannot be shared with or by other governmental agencies or used against you in any way, as dictated under Title 13 of the U.S. code. It is for statistical purposes only. All Census Bureau staff take a lifetime oath to protect your personal information, and any violation comes with a penalty of up to $250,000 and/or up-to 5 years in prison.