An undercount of Dallas County in the 2020 US Census could restrict money and political representation for years. And it is occurring, according to the consultants hired to promote a complete count.
Dallas County completion rate is 58% now compared with the national average of 62% according to the county census website.
The coronavirus and calls for social distancing have made an accurate 2020 census count an even greater challenge in communities that were considered hard to count before the pandemic.
So, Dallas County organizations are seeking new ways to promote completion of census forms by every household before the October 31 deadline.
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One example is the Vickery Meadow neighborhood, an area densely populated with apartment complexes north of Northwest Highway and east of Greenville Avenue.
Martha Stowe runs the Vickery Meadow Youth Development Fund, which promotes programs and spending to help kids.
She said many languages are spoken by people in the area who come from countries that don’t have a census.
“They don’t really trust what the government sends to them, so what’s important in this is to have someone they do trust say, this is important,” Stowe said. “We had a lot of events set up to do just that but with the pandemic we really haven’t been able to do that. So that’s been a real disappointment.”
David Whitley is Executive Director of the Vickery Midtown Public Improvement District which serves the area.
“It’s important for us to understand how many folks we’re helping, how big is the population as well as what are the characteristics of the population, so we can better tailor our investment as well as go after appropriate funds to improve the quality of the neighborhood,” Whitley said.
Several examples of improvements coming soon to the area may help demonstrate to residents the benefits of a complete count that helps justify public spending.
A $5 million upgrade of narrow Ridgecrest Road will add wider sidewalks and bike lanes.
“We need the infrastructure to help support walkability and bike-ability, so there’s better, safer access to recreational opportunities, to get to jobs, to get to the store,” Whitley said.
An old fire station along Greenville Avenue will become a community court facility.
A new public library is soon to open on Park Lane.
“That will be such a game-changer for the community,” Stowe said. “This has been an area that hasn’t had a lot of services from the city.”
The organizations will help distribute signs and promotional materials about the census in multiple languages.
“It’s certainly important to act quickly to make sure people are aware,” Whitley said.
Youth Development Fund leader Stowe said schools will help explain to families that the future of the neighborhood depends on this census.
“It’s very important for the next 10 years and convincing those who make decisions that this neighborhood needs the attention,” Stowe said.
Political representation is also determined by how many people live in certain areas.
Census takers will start going door to door August 11 to find people who have not completed the census.