Work on the 2020 U.S. Census has been going on for months, and most of those efforts have been organizational, out of public view, as the massive undertaking of making sure every person is counted ramps up.
Toward that end, the U.S. Census Bureau just announced it plans to hire 500,000 people to help with the 2020 effort (a challenge in the face of the nation’s 3.5 percent unemployment rate).
But as is always the case with the census, there is plenty at stake in the name of accuracy at the national, state and local levels.
As our story over the weekend pointed out, if only a tiny percentage of Texans fail to complete census forms, the state stands to miss out on hundreds of millions of dollars.
The repercussions could extend to political representation and, at the local level, the impact could be felt from the state Legislature to school boards and county commissioner courts.
First things first.
Participation in the census is required, and those who fail to do so are subject to fines.
Equally important, the questionnaire does not ask about citizenship status, nor are there queries related to one’s Social Security number or other private financial matters. In other words, citizenship isn’t a requirement to participate, only residency, and respondents’ information is protected by federal law.
As we have written previously, we urge everyone to participate in the census, mandated to take place every 10 years by the U.S. Constitution, in a timely manner. U.S. Census officials indicate forms are expected to start arriving in March. The process has been made easier than ever as people can respond online or by mail.
The target date for people to complete their forms is April 1, which is designated Census Day by the federal government. The intent is to get the most accurate handle on the population of the United States and its territories.
One of the most important outcomes of the census is the determination of Congressional representation. As Texas’ population continues to increase, so also does the size of its delegation in the U.S. House of Representatives. According to our story, the state added two congressional districts following the census in 1990 and 2000 with another four added following the 2010 count.
Early projections say Texas should gain two more districts as a result of this census.
There’s more to it than political clout, though. According to numbers from the Texas Demographic Center, some $675 billion in federal funds, grants, and support to states, counties and communities is tied to census data.
That translates to schools, hospitals, infrastructure and other essentials.
As our story pointed out, an undercount in the state by as little as 1 percent could mean the loss of $300 million in funding.
Experts say there is a trickle-down effect that can impact local charitable organizations.
One of the most important bits of civic duty that everyone can do for their community is take time to fill out the census form and return it.
It’s the perfect way to help the place you call home.