AUSTIN (KXAN) — One added question on the United States Census in 2020 might cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding. In a bid to prevent that from happening, Austin and Travis County officials launched a Complete Count Committee Monday to help ensure millions of Texas residents are included in the count.
President Donald Trump’s administration is looking to include a question in the upcoming Census about the citizenship status of U.S. residents. The U.S. Supreme Court is mulling the decision whether to include the question and a hearing is expected later this month. If allowed, officials fear that historically undercounted groups including immigrants and minorities will be scared to be a part of the process, causing severe undercounting of the population.
Why it matters for you
Census data guides the allocation of more than $800 billion in federal funding to programs across the country.
“Being undercounted by even one percent in 2020 could result in a significant loss in federal funding for Texas — at least $300 million per year,” according to a press release from the City of Austin and Travis County Monday.
The programs where funding is at risk include Medicaid, Medicare, Highway Planning and Construction, Section 8 Housing, Title 1 grants to local education agencies, the National School Lunch Program, State Children’s Health Insurance and several others.
The Census results also affect state voting districts. After each census, lawmakers go through redistricting to determine what area each member of Congress, state representative, state senator and city councilmember represent.
Over the last decade in Texas, civil rights groups have filed suit against the state for drawing lines that they say benefit white people over minority groups. So far, federal courts have upheld Texas’ maps as legal.
How Austin and Travis County are responding
A Complete Count Committee, like the one launched Monday in Austin and Travis County, is a volunteer committee at the tribal, local and state level that works to raise awareness and motivate residents to participate in the Census.
“Success of the Census depends on community involvement at entry level,” officials wrote. “The U.S. Census Bureau cannot conduct the 2020 Census alone.”
Challenges local lawmakers are concerned about include a move to make the Internet the primary response option during the Census, lack of funding to contact hard-to-reach residents resulting in undercounting and the heightened fear and distrust in the government and its ability to protect private data.
Complete Count Committee members will work to educate the hard-to-count population in the Austin and Travis County communities about these and other key changes to the Census.
“It’s important for us all to make sure everyone in our community gets counted,” said Austin Mayor Steve Adler in a press conference Monday. “The Census determines the number of seats that Austin-Travis County has in the U.S. Congress, and how district lines are drawn.”
He also said the community “has been leaving money on the table” and if Austin and Travis County is to “get its fair share, it’s imperative that everyone gets counted.”
KXAN Digital Photojournalist Todd Bailey contributed to this story.