We come together to make this special plea because our South Texas community needs your help. More than a dozen critical programs and services have the potential to be strengthened, or could be drastically weakened, depending how you act in the upcoming weeks. As members of our community, you have the power to decide the destiny of South Texas by completing or dismissing the 2020 Census. Our future is in your hands. 

In 1790, the first Census was taken to guide the number of congressional seats each state would have in the U.S. House of Representatives. Since then, the Census has been taken every ten years to gain a better understanding on how many people reside in our country. Our federal government uses this critical census data to add or remove seats in Congress in every state, as well as in the Electoral College. It also uses this data to assist states with federal funding for critical services and programs for its residents. In fact, Texas receives billions of dollars from Washington proportionate to the number of people in our state who respond to the Census.

State Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr.

Regrettably, some will decide not to complete their Census, which can have devastating consequences to our state and individual communities. In 2010, Texas made news due to the Census undercount. According to the Center for Urban Research, only 48.7 percent of Cameron County and 62.1 percent of Hidalgo County residents returned the 2010 Census questionnaire. Statewide, an “undercount of Texas’ population by even one-percent” reports the non-partisan Center for Public Policy Priorities (CPPP) [now named Every Texan] “could result in a $300 million loss per year over the next decade in federal funding.” If our state’s population is undercounted by as little as one percent, Texas stands to lose $3 billion in programs like education, housing, infrastructure, health care, and social services. At UTRGV alone, where approximately 75.6 percent of our students benefit yearly from state and federal financial aid and millions of dollars in federal grants are received for research in diabetes, cancer and other illnesses that impact our residents, an undercount like the one in 2010 will severely impact our community.  

We cannot understate that significance of census-derived statistics. They are so important that mayors across our state have undertaken initiatives to inform their constituents of the importance of completing the Census. Unfortunately, many people fail to see how not completing it may affect them. Distressingly, if people fail to complete their Census, the quality of life of all Texans can potentially be negatively impacted. According to the CPPP, “if Texans are undercounted, the state may have to pick up the tab for critical programs or eliminate services altogether.”

Dr. Guy Bailey

This is because the funding level of greatly needed programs are based on decennial census-derived data. Funding for our children and university students could be lost because the Census count impacts funding for financial aid, critical research, school lunch programs, childcare, and after-school programs. Businesses use census data to decide where to locate factories, restaurants, hotels and retail stores. Developers use census data to build homes and revitalize old neighborhoods. Local governments receive census dollars for public safety, emergency preparedness, roads, highways and other community initiatives and hospitals receive census dollars to take care of the indigent and disabled. If this pandemic has taught us anything, it is that we must be prepared with research, supplies, testing and front-line healthcare workers and so much of the costs for these items can be covered, at least in part, with census dollars provided to states. It should also be stressed that if Texas has an undercount, like we did ten years ago, monies that should have come to our residents will go to other states to strengthen their state programs for the benefit of their residents.  

Will you stand by and allow the future of these services that have a profound impact on our communities be put at risk by not completing the Census? If everyone takes as little as 10-minutes to complete and submit their Census, communities like South Texas which have experienced rapid growth stand to gain additional seats in Congress and increased targeted federal assistance for greatly needed services and programs. All because of a Census that is fast, safe, and confidential. 

Will you help our state leverage a larger share of federal funding from Washington? Will you be part of the solution to increase South Texas’ strength in Congress? Can the future of our communities count on you to complete your Census? 

Our future is in your hands.

Editor’s Note: The above guest column was penned by state Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., of Brownsville, Texas, and Dr. Guy Bailey, president of the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley. The column appears in The Rio Grande Guardian with permission of the authors.

Editor’s Note: Credit for the main image accompanying the above guest column goes to La Unión del Pueblo Entero and ARISE Adelante.

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