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Congressmen Gonzalez and Vela Urge Census Bureau Director to Continue Count Through October

August 6, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON – Today, Congressmen Vicente Gonzalez (TX-15) and Filemon Vela (TX-34) urged U.S. Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham to continue self-response and non-response follow-up (NRFU) for the U.S. Census through October 31 as originally planned. Director Dillingham and the Trump administration recently indicated that Census efforts would end a month earlier than scheduled. 

Response rates in South Texas have been particularly low compared to the national response rate in part because of the pandemic. The South Texas Congressmen detailed in their letter why these counts are so important for their districts and how devastating curtailing the Census efforts would be:

“A four-week cut in the self-response period and NRFU would further exacerbate differences in response rates between communities of color and predominantly white communities. In the last six months America’s battle against the COVID-19 pandemic has brought the ongoing pandemic of systemic racial inequity to the forefront. A complete 2020 Census that includes an accurate count of all communities would help combat these ongoing health and economic disparities by providing communities with the resources they are entitled to.  Specifically, in our districts, the impact of COVID-19 has been more severe now than in March. An accurate 2020 Census will provide critical resources that are essential for the well-being and safety of those in my community.”

In addition to the pandemic, the Trump administration has caused significant ripples of fear throughout the Latino community. From attempting to include citizenship status questions to purposefully excluding non-citizens, the Trump administration’s actions will no doubt impact Census responses. 

Despite a significantly larger population in Texas compared to other states, Governor Abbott and the state government have not invested in Census operations at the same rate as other large states. In comparison, the California state legislature has invested $154 million to accurately count its population. 

The full text of the letter is available below and here

 

August 5, 2020

 

Director Steven Dillingham

U.S. Census Bureau
4600 Silver Hill Road
Washington, DC 20233

 

Dear Director Dillingham: 

 

We write to you today to strongly urge the U.S. Census Bureau to ensure a complete and accurate count by withdrawing your August 3rd statement and allowing the self-response period and non-response follow up (NRFU) to continue through October 31st, as previously planned.  Ending these critical operations on September 30th will result in a severe and historic undercount of already difficult-to-count communities, including Latino and other marginalized groups. 

 

The COVID-19 pandemic has severely disrupted normal day-to-day activities for every American, and has disproportionately affected more vulnerable communities. This has, in turn, negatively impacted the work of our Census workers.  The inability to effectively perform in-person outreach as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has affected the 2020 Census’ capacity to reach difficult-to-count communities, resulting in communities of color having significantly lower response rates than white Americans. The lack of targeted and in-person outreach to minorities is evident when looking at the current response rates. The national response rate is 62.9% compared to 66.5% in 2010. In the state of Texas, the response rate is 57.9% compared to 64.4% in 2010. In our largely rural and Latino congressional districts, the response rate is only 45.3% compared to 58.7% in 2010 in Texas District 34, and 51% compared to 61.4% in 2010 in Texas District 15. 

 

A four-week cut in the self-response period and NRFU would further exacerbate differences in response rates between communities of color and predominantly white communities. In the last six months America’s battle against the COVID-19 pandemic has brought the ongoing pandemic of systemic racial inequity to the forefront. A complete 2020 Census that includes an accurate count of all communities would help combat these ongoing health and economic disparities by providing communities with the resources they are entitled to.  Specifically, in our districts, the impact of COVID-19 has been more severe now than in March. An accurate 2020 Census will provide critical resources that are essential for the well-being and safety of those in my community.

 

The 2020 Census is fundamental in determining the federal funding that communities receive for key public services. Taxpayers spend nearly $16 billion on the 2020 Census and deserve an accurate count. A poorly executed 2020 Census would hurt our communities, states and localities, especially historically underrepresented areas, by providing limited federal funding for economic development, childcare, schools, hospitals, roads, public works, and many other vital services. 

 

We urge you to reconsider removing four critical weeks from the self-response and NRFU period. An October 31st deadline for the self-response period and NRFU will help ensure all communities are accurately counted. 

 

Thank you for your attention to this critical matter. We look forward to your response. 

 

Sincerely,

 

 

 

Filemon Vela                                                    Vicente Gonzalez

Member of Congress                                            Member of Congress

 

 

 

 

 

 

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