The U.S. Census Bureau has opened offices in Austin and Leander ahead of the 2020 census, a constitutionally mandated count that happens every 10 years.
At an event at the Austin Public Library on Thursday, federal officials urged local leaders to make sure the area’s growing population is accurately counted. The census is used to figure out how the federal government will dole out up to $675 billion to states for health care and transportation, among other things.
While many states are spending big money to make sure everyone is counted in their states, Texas lawmakers have not set aside any money for it.
“Yes, our state didn’t invest money into it, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important,” said Quincy Dunlap, the president and CEO of the Austin Area Urban League. “That means it’s incumbent among us as citizens in the Central Texas region to dig in a little deeper and invest in what a complete count looks like.”
Dunlap said historically some communities have been on the losing end of an inaccurate census, which is why local organizations and citizens need to make sure those underserved communities are getting counted.
“We have to acknowledge that groups and individual families get excluded,” he said. “So it starts with the count. Then it rolls down into resource allocation when we have to make cuts somewhere.”
While the state won’t spend money on the count, local leaders in the Austin area have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars ahead of next year. Many cities across the state – including Austin – have “complete count” committees, local efforts aimed at improving a community’s census count.
“It is our duty to make sure that everyone is counted to assure that school funds, fire and emergency services, health care to our community gets distributed appropriately,” said Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt.
The bureau’s new offices will be an "operational hub" for the thousands of people agency officials say they plans to hire in the coming months.