Texas opens new Census Bureau offices with hopes to increase participation

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Photo Credit: Alekka Hernandez | Daily Texan Staff

Inaccuracy in the upcoming census count could potentially cost the state millions of dollars, so Travis County is increasing outreach efforts, Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir said.

The U.S. Census Bureau has opened offices in Travis County, among other locations, just in time to conduct the 2020 Census, which will begin on April 1. The new U.S. Census Bureau offices opening in Texas will manage operations and community involvement across 20 surrounding counties. 

Despite offices opening in two counties, Texas lawmakers have not set aside any money to ensure all residents participate, DeBeauvoir said.

The census is used by the federal government to allocate more than $675 billion to state-funded resources such as infrastructure, education and healthcare on a state-by-state basis.

Bruce Elfant, Travis County tax assessor-collector, said although he would have appreciated monetary support from the state, he is proud of Travis County’s efforts to raise money to support an accurate census count through private donations. So far, the county has raised over $600,000.

“Greater census participation means a more accurate account of the demographics within the state,” Elfant said. “A more accurate count of the residents within Texas potentially means receiving an even greater sum of money from the federal government. This is money we’re entitled to. This is money we could be using to better our community for all residents.”

 

DeBeauvoir said Travis County is putting a premium on census participation, especially since typically underserved communities can experience even greater inaccessibility to essential resources. Even an undercount of a fraction of a percent could warrant the loss of millions of dollars, DeBeauvoir said.

DeBeauvoir also said people across the nation will now be able to complete the census online, making it even easier to get involved.

“We don’t necessarily have a blank checkbook, but Travis County is really trying to step it up in terms of community members’ involvement and the census,” DeBeauvoir said. “The opening of a census office in Austin just exemplifies the kind of attention we are giving to greater participation. Given the potential funding from the government for programs that everybody uses, such as Medicare or the public school system, participation in the census is vital.”

With an accurate count, Texas could get up to three more congressional seats because of an expected 5 million person population gain, according to the Austin American-Statesman.

The results of this census will also play a role in redistricting ahead of the 2021 local elections, DeBeauvoir said.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau website, almost 60% of people in East Austin did not complete their census form during the last cycle. 

“With today’s political climate, it’s really hard to trust that these results are going to be used just for funding purposes, especially if you’re an immigrant,” biochemistry sophomore Chris Dinh said. “It really needs to be communicated that these numbers are being used for good. Everyone should be reaping the benefits of federal funding. Quality public education, reliable health care. These are things that people need.”