County: Engage in 2020 Census; So far, local participation just 35%

This March 23, 2018, file photo shows an envelope containing a census letter mailed to a U.S. resident as part of the nation's only test run of the 2020 Census. (Michelle R. Smith | The Associated Press)

The 2020 Census response rate in Cameron County was just over 35 percent this past week, according to data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau tracking response rates nationwide.

County-wide, the 35.7 percent response rate listed by the U.S. Census Bureau was low in comparison to the national rate of 55.6 percent and Texas’ slightly smaller count of 49.6 percent.

Officials continue to urge residents to take a few minutes to complete the questionnaire online, over the phone, or by mail.

“ The 2020 Census count is very important and critical as it will determine the number of seats each state will hold in the U.S. House of Representatives, as well as influencing decisions about how hundreds of billions of dollars are allocated each year for the next ten years to local communities for vital services such as educational programs, healthcare, highways, roads, bridges, first responders and law enforcement,” wrote County Judge Eddie Treviño, Jr. in a Facebook post.

“ Households do NOT need to wait for the census questionnaire to arrive by mail in order to respond.”

Residents who haven’t yet responded can do so by mailing in the forms delivered to each household. Anyone can respond online by visiting 2020census.gov or calling (884) 330-2020 (English) and (844) 468-2020 (Spanish).

More information is available on the Cameron County Census 2020 Facebook page.

County Clerk Sylvia Garza-Perez said initiatives to incentivize census responses are well underway. She said 35 people joined a county-wide committee meeting last week to discuss the ongoing efforts, many of which have been in partnership with local agencies and organizations.

“ On Friday we distributed over 1,000 flyers during the United Against Hunger food distribution by United Way of Southern Cameron County and the Brownsville Wellness Coalition,” said Garza-Perez.

UWSCC has additional plans to deliver snack baskets containing census information to children living in households managed by the Housing Authority of the City of Brownsville, an important piece of outreach, as the number of children counted throughout the county help determine federal funding allocated to local schools.

Garza-Perez will be joining committees in Brownsville and on South Padre Island, and other cities to continue planning. “Port Isabel is going to be distributing “Everyone Counts” coloring books to the students when they pick up their homework,” she said.

“ Santa Rosa’s elected officials are trying to see how they can provide a one-time discount on residents’ water bills if they complete the survey and provide the numeration that’s given after the survey is completed.”

The county’s Tax-Assessor-Collector will also be pushing the 2020 Census alongside their mail-out distribution in May, which should distribute around 216,000 mail-outs, according to the clerk.

The office continues to work with the Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council and is sharing information via TV, print, radio, and online media.

esheridan@brownsvilleherald.com