AUSTIN, Texas – State Rep. César Blanco, chair of the Border Caucus in the House of Representatives, says California is going to eat Texas’ lunch when it comes to census-driven funding and political representation.
The El Paso Democrat points out that in preparation for the 2020 Census, the California state Assembly has allocated $90 million for a statewide complete count committee. He said Texas has allocated nothing.
“I am very aware of our political situation and I do not want to politicize the census. It has already been politicized with the citizenship question,” Blanco said, pointing out that he is looking for a Republican sponsor in the Senate for his census legislation, House Bill 255.
“This is about Texas’ fair share, $43 billion in census-directed funds. I need your help, to talk to your representatives. At the end of the day we don’t want other states to get what should be coming our way.”
Blanco gave an example.
“California, their state assembly has already allocated $90 million for a statewide complete count committee. Texas has done zero. They are going to eat our lunch. They are going to take our congressional seats, they are going to take our billions of dollars in census-directed funds. They are going to take our electoral votes. Why should we let California take all that stuff, right? We are Texas, let’s go get it.”
Blanco made his comments in a recent speech to the Texas Border Coalition, a group of cities and counties from El Paso to Brownsville.
“The Census is once in a decade process and we only have one shot to get this right. We have to live with the consequences of the census for the next ten years. An accurate count in Texas is at risk for a variety of reasons. We have seen the funding and the staffing levels of the U.S. Census Bureau dramatically decreased. Fundamental changes in how the census is going to be conducted is in place as well. We have seen the introduction of a sensitive citizenship question. It is going to really impact our ability, when we knock on the door, should we answer, should we not, etc.”
Blanco said there census-driven funding for Texas stands at $43 billion. He said these funds go towards roads, Head Start, Medicaid and a variety of healthcare programs. He noted that the census also impacts how many congressional seats states receive.
“Democrat or Republican, it doesn’t matter. What s important is that we have more representation, regardless of party, in Congress. When I worked in Congress, you see how big the delegations are in California, Florida, New York, and Texas has a big delegation. But, when it comes down to writing the budget, you are looking at those resources, you want to make sure you have a lot of representatives from Texas advocating for our fair share.”
Blanco said Texas stands poised to get two to four additional congressional seats after the 2020 Census because of its population growth. However, that will only happen, he said, if everyone is counted.
“Electoral apportionment, the Electoral College, these are allocated by the census. So, we have a greater say on who is going to be the president and the running mate in Texas if we count more people,” Blanco said.
The $43 billion of census-driven funding is huge for for Texas, Blanco argued.
“Programs in Texas receiving substantial federal funds include Medicaid, highway planning, construction, the national school lunch program, special education, foster care.”
However, about 25 percent of Texas is already hard to count, Blanco said. Hard to count populations include young children, the disabled, the elderly, immigrants, individuals with limited or no English proficiency, minorities, households with no or inadequate Internet access, the homeless, rural communities.
“That checks a lot of boxes in this room, right?” Blanco stated.
Blanco said border communities have disproportionately higher hard-to-count populations.
“That means our border communities have the most to lose in federal dollars if our communities aren’t counted. Or, you can look at it as the most to gain from a complete and accurate count.”
The two counties that were undercounted the most in the 2010 Census were Hidalgo County and El Paso County, Blanco said.
“So, it is important that Hidalgo County and El Paso County are preparing local outreach by creating Complete County Committees. In El Paso we have convened meetings between the city and county. We already have a complete county formed with a task force. The idea to get a budget from the city and the county to create an outreach program for our communities, to make sure people understand what the census is all about, to get people counted.”
Blanco said Houston is looking at doing the same thing as El Paso.
“I encourage all of our communities along the border to consider a local initiative to create a complete count committee. It is important,” he said.
However, Blanco argued it should not only be local communities that pay close attention to the census. The State of Texas should also, he said.
“The State of Texas is really not prepared for the census. That is why I have filed House Bill 255, the Every Texan Counts Act, to create a statewide Complete Count Commission. The bill would create a best practices program to promote full participation in the census. It would incentivize local governments to engage in local outreach efforts by utilizing a newly created grant program administered under the office of the governor.”
Under Blanco’s bill, if communities like Laredo or Eagle Pass or La Joya create a Complete Count Committee and put $50,000 into the budget, they could apply to the Governor’s Office for matching funds.
“These communities could say, look, we have already got skin in the game, our community has allocated $50,000 for outreach, we would like a grant. The Governor’s Office could match it. Think about how that amplifies. You could pay for outreach materials for promotoras in the community or in the senior centers.”
Blanco said the other part of his bill create a Complete Count Committee under the Secretary of State’s Office to make sure there is a statewide outreach program in English and Spanish. It would allow communities to talk about how important it is to get counted, so when people are knocking on the door they are not scared.”
Blanco asked that the Texas Border Coalition get behind HB 255.
“I ask that you rally your cities, your counties, your chambers of commerce, to advocate for House Bill 255. To make sure Texas and our border communities are not left behind.”
Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above news story shows state Rep. César Blanco speaking at the Winter meeting of the Texas Border Coalition. The meeting was held at an IBC Bank office in east Austin.