From Dallas County
Dallas, we have to move our Census response rates from better to best.
More money and more power are at stake with the Census and the time to ensure Dallas County gets what it deserves is running out. The deadline to complete the Census is September 30th. With 61% of surveys completed in Dallas County, we have a lot of ground to cover; at stake is nothing less than hundreds of millions of dollars of federal funding and additional congressional seats that accurately represent our explosive growth.
For Dallas County, a 1% undercount would mean $31 million annually subtracted from schools, nutrition programs, hospitals and road construction. An accurate count of Texas’ growth could earn us three additional seats in Congress. Our county is ranked Top 10 in the nation for population growth, and 50% of that growth comes from immigrants. It’s imperative we make sure every single resident is counted.
Let me start with a pat on the back. Dallas County, we are closing the gap. In 2010 we lagged the nation’s Census self-response rate by 9.4%. It was a deficit that had to be closed and we are doing it. We have cut the gap in half to 4.3%. This was no small feat considering our challenges.
Leading up to the Census the Federal Government attempted unsuccessfully to add a citizenship question to the decennial survey. The Census has never counted citizens. It counts “persons in each state.” But the months of headline news produced a climate of fear for undocumented residents and their U.S.-born relatives.
Adding to the uphill climb was the move to change the Census to an Internet survey for the first month. Most households got a letter inviting them to go to My2020Census.gov to fill out the Census. That does not work when 42.3% of Dallas households do not have fixed internet access. The Internet-first Census hasn’t just hurt Dallas County. The nation’s count is down 10.8% from 2010. Texas is down 6.2%. Despite this, Dallas is moving at a clip that demonstrates we will not be deterred by structures designed to suppress certain groups of residents.
So how do we move from better to best leading up to the September 30th deadline? Dallas County Counts is investing heavily in face time and phone time. Our efforts will be supported by mailers, social media ads and partner organizations leveraging their communication channels.
But nothing beats one-on-one contact. What we could not do in the last four months because of COVID-19, visit with neighbors on their doorsteps, we are doing now. Thankfully, people are so hungry for human contact that they are actually happy to see a friendly Dallas County Census educator in a powder blue polo shirt.
We are finding out why neighbors have not filled out the Census. They forgot they eventually got a paper survey. Others need reassurance that they are not going to be reported to ICE. A surprising number say they are waiting for U.S. Census enumerators to help them fill it out like they have in the past.
Dallas, we do not have time for that. There are not enough enumerators to visit every house in six weeks!
We have to get on our computers, mail back the paper copy or call the Census number at 844-330-2020 (English) or 877-468-2020 (Spanish) to respond over the phone, If you are a business leader or a non-profit, go to dallascensus.com/tool-kit and download an email to send to your team or your customers. If you’ve already filled out the Census, text your family and friends and remind them to do the same. Post it on your social media channels.
With everything we have experienced in 2020, Dallas County needs all the money and power we can get. Filling out the Census does not cost us a thing. It takes 10 minutes. Not filling it out will cost us dearly for the next ten years.