Austin-Travis County Census officials, volunteers work to reach Latino community


AUSTIN (KXAN) — Wednesday, the Census Program Manager for the City of Austin and Travis County is expected to give an update on the Census count to the Parks and Recreation Department Board.

John Lawler said meetings like Wednesday’s provide an opportunity for city and county board and commission members to get involved.

Lawler said they have teamed up with grassroots teams to target minority communities across the area.

“The largest hard to count population by far, locally, is our Hispanic/Latino community,” Lawler explained.

Those at Contamos Austin/Travis County said what makes this year different is their message.

“The main focus was getting that message in a way that people will be more receptive to it,” Jesus Becerra with Contamos Austin said.

Becerra, along with Veronica Ramirez, said they’ve done various community outreach efforts including creating a public service announcement in the form of a novela, hosting virtual DJ parties, and posting an image of a Quinceanera to show who counts.

“That specifically speaks to us. Just putting that ad into our culture to not just saying all kids counts but making it reflective of who we are here,” Ramirez said.

At present, the Austin-Travis County Complete Count Committee says some of the lower-performing Latino neighborhoods fall within the zip codes of 78741, to the southeast Austin neighborhoods of East Riverside-Oltorf and Pleasant Valley, and some north Austin neighborhoods in the 78753 and 78758 zip codes. These areas combined only make up for around 35% of those who have filled out the Census on their own. That’s 25% less than the citywide percentage.

“There were some parts of town we expected to be harder to count and those have largely proved true and what we do is work with those grassroots teams,” Lawler said.

Working together is what Lawler and Ramirez believe will make a difference this count.

It’s not going to work to have an elected official stand there and talk to our community and tell us what we need to do but if you can put it to something that is relatable to our culture and who we are it goes a lot further,” Ramirez said.

Because of COVID-19, the deadline to complete the​ 2020 Census has been extended to October 31.

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