The first mail to residents about the 2020 Census goes out next week and North Texas leaders are working to avoid an undercount, which could be very expensive for local communities.
Federal money for transportation, health care, education and more is based on the size of the population.
The count every 10 years also determines the number of members each state gets in the US Congress. Redistricting of government positions at the federal, state and local level is based on the census. Businesses make neighborhood improvement decisions like where to build grocery stores with census information.
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“Those messages do not resonate with the hard to count,” said Census Consultant Sophia Johnson.
Johnson was hired by Dallas County. She told Dallas City Council Members this week about the plan to reach hard to count people that was developed in conjunction with the Dallas Mayor’s Complete Count Committee.
The effort is focused on places where invitations to complete the 2010 census were not returned.
“So you have the opportunity to mail it and even after five or six reminders, they still did not mail it. Those specific census tracts are where we’re going to be pouring resources,” Johnson said.
The question of citizenship will not be included in the 2020 census but past discussion about it helped fuel fears about deportation. Census information is not shared with immigration officials. But residents who are not citizens still need to be counted.
“You have to have trusted influencers conveying the message,” Johnson said. “We want to make sure that we are borrowing credibility from people that already have trust.”
For instance, neighborhood schools are being asked to help explain that the census could help classrooms.
Most people will be asked to complete the census online. So another Dallas County effort will involve a mobile unit the offers giveaways and internet access.
“We want people to be excited like they are when the ice cream man comes,” Johnson said.
Census takers will go door to door after efforts to reach people by mail.