Local leaders discuss importance of Census participation

Accurate counts support government funding for students and small governments

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Every ten years Americans are required by law to complete the census, a decennial count of the nation’s population. Participation by everyone in the county is important, local leaders said, because it helps determine funding for a wide variety of programs and emergency measures making it important for each household to complete the survey honestly.

The census is available online at www.census.gov and is still open though the primary response period was March 12-20, according to a US Census Bureau press release. Reminder postcards were delivered on April 27 for households that had not yet responded although a census bureau press release from the same day announced 53.4% of households had already responded, accounting for almost 79 million households nationwide.

Sealy City Manager Lloyd Merrell said the number of residents coincides with how many emergency medical service representatives are assigned to a certain location, among other things.

“Local government uses the census to determine how many police officers, firemen, and EMS are needed,” Merrell said in an April 23 email. “City planners and developers use census data to plan for new homes and improve neighborhoods. The school system uses the census to determine when new schools are needed and where. The medical community uses the census to determine where medical facilities are needed.”

Sealy ISD Superintendent Sheryl Moore said the school district uses census data to set zoning lines to manage campus populations, mentioning it’s hard to ensure accurate sampling of a particular area if inaccurate information is reported.

“House Bill 3, which was passed this last legislative session, tied funding to geocodes for our students,” she said in a phone interview April 23. “I was really pretty proud of the Texas Legislature. They tied it all to geocodes which is why it's important that we have accurate information for where students live.”

In situations such as the pandemic we find ourselves in now, Austin County Judge Tim Lapham said that if anything, it’s more important to fill it out today.

“It is vitally important that we get everyone counted, especially in times like this,” he said in an April 24 email. “When we are competing for resources, the more population we represent the more resources we can obtain to serve the community.”

Merrell agreed on its importance and although he didn’t think the coronavirus has negatively impacted the census workers’ task, it definitely hasn’t helped it.

“A lot of the census work has already been done. The COVID-19 certainly hasn’t helped,” Merrell said. “Everyone should participate because census data affects their representation in state and federal government.”

Moore said (completing the census) is a quick and painless process that will end up providing more benefits than setbacks if filled out correctly.

“I did mine last week and it took about three minutes,” she said. “I want people not to be afraid, to be honest. That is genuinely my concern that we'll have people that aren't honest about who actually is living in that particular house, and that will do nothing but hurt.”

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