Sometime over last couple of months, you were likely contacted to participate in the Census. And for the first time, Americans have been able to fill out their Census questionnaire online this year.
The impact the Census results will have on the future of our community makes it imperative that everyone in Angelina County return their completed forms. Yet Texans as a whole haven’t been stirred to action, with a self-response rate of just 54.1% as of May 16. Angelina County’s self-response rate is even more apathetic, with just 51.1% of citizens having filled out their forms.
Meanwhile, the national self-response rate is 59.5%. Minnesota leads the way with a 69.5% self-response rate and finished with a 74.1% rate in 2010. By contrast, Texas' final 2010 rate was 64.4%. We've got to do better than this.
In addition to self-reporting by phone, mail or online, Census Bureau employees will attempt to count some individuals by traveling to people’s residences. The bureau is concentrating its efforts this year on areas known to be less likely to respond to questionnaires — about 21.8% of households. But the coronavirus pandemic has affected the originally scheduled timeline. Nonresponse follow-ups, often conducted in person, are now set to take place from mid-August through the end of October. And the Census Bureau has pushed back its deadline for completing the 2020 count from the end of July to the end of October, as well.
The new online option has been a plus for many Texans, but nearly 17% of households in the state still don’t have internet access. However you receive and choose to fill out your form, please do so promptly.
We get that some are reluctant to report their age, race, ethnicity, relationship status and home address to the federal government for fear that the data will be used against them. For many, those fears only intensified during the failed attempt to add a citizenship question to the 2020 questionnaire. That’s why Congress passed a law to maintain the privacy of Census response, meaning once someone provides information to the Census Bureau, it is only used to produce statistics.
It’s incredibly important for Angelina County and its cities that everyone who lives here completes the form. Quite simply, the 2020 Census results could mean hundreds of thousands — and potentially millions — of dollars in increased funding for our area.
Census results are used to divvy up $1.5 trillion in federal funding for such resources as schools, hospitals, fire trucks, roads and bridges. Without an accurate count, Angelina County may not receive the vital resources it needs to ensure a high quality of life for our citizens.
Another key aspect of the 2020 Census as it relates to us: Lufkin and its neighboring communities have a chance to reach 100,000 on the population meter. That would cause Lufkin to become a Metropolitan Statistical Area, a designation that would trigger even more funding and economic development for our city and region. As it is now, Lufkin touts itself as being the state’s No. 2 micropolitan area behind Huntsville, which is certainly something to hang our hat on, but not nearly as advantageous as being at the bottom of the metropolitan list.
The new Census numbers also will be used in the drawing of new Texas and U.S. representative districts, so Angelina County needs the best population figure it can get. Rural districts are getting harder and harder to come by, which gives our lawmakers very little political leverage. The 2003 redistricting explains why we have a congressman from Tyler instead of one from Lufkin or Nacogdoches.
Bear in mind, during the 2020 Census, the Census Bureau will never ask you for:
■ Your Social Security number
■ Money or donations
■ Anything on behalf of a political party
■ Your bank or credit card account numbers
If someone claiming to be from the Census Bureau contacts you via email or phone and asks you for any of these things, it’s a scam, and you should not cooperate. For more information, visit 2020census.gov/en/avoiding-fraud.
Remember: It just takes a few minutes to answer the handful of simple questions on the form, and the results affect us for the next 10 years. Don’t delay in filling out your form.