Census Day 2020: How Texans are responding so far — and the expected impact of COVID-19

Texas

AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Census Day is officially here: it’s Tuesday, April 1.

It’s not the deadline to respond to the 2020 Census, but rather a reference date. It’s the date used when the form is filled out to identify who is living at a given address at that point in time.

As of Tuesday evening, the national response rate is 38.4%, while Texas’ rate is 33.4%.

State leaders are pushing for a higher response because the census determines what federal funds funnel into the Lone Star State for things like healthcare, education, and housing, and determines the size of our congressional delegation.

The Census Bureau’s Dallas regional director, Cathy Lacy, explained the deadline this year has actually been extended into August due to the coronavirus.

“People have more time to respond will actually continue taking self responses up until August 14. And that’s probably about the time we’ll finish our field activities as well,” Lacy said.

Currently, field operations have been suspended. Lacy said they are following recommended guidelines from the CDC, and while the timeline right now projects the field agents could go back out in May, that could change.

“We still have to keep the safety of our staff in the public, that has to be a number one priority for us. So that’s really going to drive when we will be back out into the field,” Lacy explained.

The field agents are especially crucial to help count in rural areas.

“One thing to keep in mind, in parts of Texas, the postal service does not deliver to a physical address. And that’s those are the areas where our field staff, we’re in the process of hand delivering those questionnaires. So those households have not had an opportunity to self respond yet,” Lacy said.

This could be why rural areas have had a lower response rate so far.

Counties with larger populations have typically seen a higher response rate so far, according to the Census Bureau’s interactive map.

For example, Travis County, which includes Austin, has a 34.9% response rate as of Tuesday evening, with a population of around 1.2 million people.

Carson County, with a population just over 6,000, has a response rate of 9.7% as of Tuesday evening.

“One thing to keep in mind is, if you have a city style address, you can still go online at 2020census.gov and click you know, you want to respond to your census form and put in that address, and respond without that invitation. For those areas where you have an address description, and it wouldn’t necessarily mean anything to anyone. Those are the ones that we’re concerned about responding without a census ID because we may end up going back to those households,” Lacy said.

Despite field agents being delayed, Lacy said the Census Bureau is still expecting the count to be completed by the end of the year.

“At this point, we are very confident. You know, with any sense of schedule, we have some leeway time in there some added time. So we will be taking advantage of that time that we had set aside for something else,” Lacy said.

There are three ways to complete the 2020 Census. For more information, click here.

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