As many of you know, our census happens every ten years and we were originally set to have the census end in July of this year, July 31.

Because of the pandemic and all the plans we had made over the last year and a half, almost two years, we had a lot of plans with a lot of the municipalities in Cameron County to do much outreach work, working within several communities that did not get counted ten years. The pandemic hit us and all our plans went many ways, took many roads and many highways. 

We have tried and we have continued to have Zoom meetings and complete count committee meetings to keep the effort going and we have done a good job. 

Sylvia Garza-Perez

When all this happened they pulled an extension; the Congress had apparently extended it to October 31 of this year. We thought, maybe everything will slow down, the pandemic will slow down and we will be able to finish out with a great punch. Unfortunately, we received word last week that the extension was not approved by Congress so we are really at the end of the road. September 30 will be the last day that they will take any count, whether it be online, whether it be that you call, or whether it be that you mail something in. 

Currently, he national percentage right now is 63.1 percent. The State of Texas is at 58 percent. Cameron County currently sits at 46.4 percent. And for those of you that are listening, you are probably saying, I get it. You don’t want to hear about the census because the pandemic has hit you, it has impacted everyone, everybody is scared about this. But, let me tell you what this means to our county. In 2010 we completed the census at a 56 percent completion rate. Back then we were undercounted. We are currently at 46 percent. 

What we are going through right now and how the county has been hit by this, financially, by illness, by everything, those of you who have lost your jobs, those of you whose business has gone down, when we get federal funding, whether there is a flood, a hurricane, we need to expand or build the second causeway that we want for the island, we rely wholeheartedly on federal funding. 

And this is what our school districts rely on, is federal funding. Programs such as the meals that we provide for the children at school, special education programs, pre-k programs, all those come from federal funding. Everything that is going on right now with COVID, in the next ten years, we are probably going to be asking for federal funding to cover what we have lost. 

With this percentage of count we are nine percent less than what we completed in 2010. We are going to be hit hard. With the CARES Act – the money the county got reimbursed – we got less than what I feel we were entitled to. This all comes because people respond to the census. 

Those of you who have not done it, and have not had the opportunity to do it, this is how we get impacted. Every time that you ask for federal funding, for assistance, it all comes from the numbers that are counted for the census. It creates jobs, it creates representation in Washington. It creates opportunities for education, jobs, expansion of highways, freeways for the entire county, for the entire nation, for the entire state of Texas.

Us coming in as an undercount is not going to help us. This is going to impact us for another ten years. All I can say is, I know that everyone has been hit with the virus and is dealing with that. I, myself, suffered that. And I will tell you it is not something I would wish on anyone. But, we have an obligation as a citizen of the state and of this country, to do our due diligence and this is one of our civic duties. To participate in the census. I can ask you, if you haven’t done it, try to do it before September 30. 

This is financially going to impact us even more so than 2010, because of what we are going through. 

Editor’s Note: The above remarks were made by Cameron County Clerk Sylvia Garza-Perez at a news conference held by Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño, Jr., on Friday, Aug. 7, 2020. The news conference was held to discuss the county’s response to COVID-19. However, other topics were also discussed, including workforce training, Hurricane Hanna, and Census 2020. Garza-Perez is spearheading Cameron County’s Census 2020 outreach work.

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