SANTA ROSA, Texas – U.S. Reps. Filemon Vela and Vicente Gonzalez say they plan to deliver messages via phone this week to remind constituents to complete the once-a-decade Census.

If the Census Bureau’s website is anything to go by, the two congressmen will have their work cut out, particularly in the Rio Grande Valley. 

According to the website’s Self Response data page, only 27.7 percent of Willacy County residents have self-responded. For Cameron County, the percentage is 42.3 percent. For Hidalgo County, the percentage is 43.2 percent. The statewide average for Texas is 55.1 percent. 

Starr County is in Congressman Henry Cuellar’s district. Starr’s self-response rate is 32.3 percent.

Some of the statistics on the Census Bureau’s website are hard to believe. It says that only 3.3 percent of residents in Santa Rosa have self-responded. For South Padre Island the percentage is a meagre 6.2 percent. And for La Villa the self-response rate is only 8.5 percent.

These figures are a lot worse than those recorded for the last census, in 2010. A decade ago the self-response rate was 56.4 percent in Cameron County, 55.9 percent in Hidalgo County, 50.6 percent in Willacy County, and 45.5 percent in Starr County.

The obvious explanation for the lower figures this time around is the coronavirus. Residents have, mostly likely, been preoccupied with the pandemic. Many Census promotional activities were postponed due to COVID-19.

However, this go round residents can respond via the Internet. This was not an option in 2010. Responses via the Internet are included in the self-response totals.

“We have an opportunity to shape the future of a generation of people just by answering the 2020 Census,” said Congressman Gonzalez. 

“Historically, our districts have been undercounted and our communities have missed out on millions of dollars in funding for public programs. We cannot afford for that to happen. Whether it’s by mail, phone, or online, we all have a civic responsibility to respond to the Census.”

Gonzalez added that a strong participation and good response to the Census will ensure the Valley is not undercounted and that South Texas receives its fair share of federal funds.

Congressman Vela agreed.

“The results of the once-a-decade Census will determine the allocation of hundreds of billions of federal dollars in the next decade,” Vela said. 

“Unfortunately, our state’s response rate is lagging behind that of the rest of the nation, and our communities are lagging behind the state’s response rate.” 

Vela said he was calling on South Texans to fill out the Census “so that our community does not miss out on millions of dollars to help our schools, build our highways, support hospitals and first responders, to name a few.”

According to McAllen Mayor Jim Darling, the Census Bureau, in coordination with federal, state and local health officials, has started to drop off 2020 Census questionnaire packets at front doors of households in Hidalgo and Cameron counties.

Darling said this will be done in areas where the majority of households do not receive mail at their physical address.   

“Considering that there are so many distractions and issues currently going on in the world that might make people forget to fill out the Census,” Darling said. 

“But now, with being able to respond to the Census online or over the phone, it is easier than ever. It is safe, because no one is coming to your door; and secure, because the answers can never be shared with anyone else.”

The deadline to fill out the Census has been extended to October 31, 2020. To complete the census by telephone, dial 844-330-2020. To complete the census by telephone, in Spanish, dial 844-468-2020. To complete the Census online, visit

Latest Self-Response stats by City from the U.S. Census Bureau:

Alamo: 36.7 percent

Alton: 45.0 percent

Brownsville: 48.9 percent

Combes: 23.1 percent

Donna: 41.6 percent

Edcouch: 11.4 percent

Edinburg: 51.8 percent

Elsa: 16.1 percent

Escobares: 35.2 percent

Granjeno: 44.7 percent

Harlingen: 46.7 percent

Hidalgo: 42.1 percent

Indian Lake: 38.2 percent

La Feria 26.9 percent

La Villa 8.5 percent

Laguna Vista: 53.6 percent

Los Fresnos: 49.0 percent

Los Indios: 14.8 percent

Lyford: 10.9 percent

McAllen: 51.0 percent

Mercedes: 42.5 percent

Mission: 48.3 percent

Palm Valley: 62.5 percent

Palmhurst: 37.7 percent

Palmview: 33.8 percent

Penitas: 32.7 percent

Pharr: 43.2 percent

Port Isabel: 23.7 percent

Progreso: 11.6 percent

Progreso Lakes: 50.0 percent

Rancho Viejo: 50.0 percent

Rangerville: 47.6 percent

Raymondville: 47.6 percent

Rio Grande City: 40.3 percent

Rio Hondo: 21.4 percent

Roma: 31.9 percent

San Benito: 41.0 percent

San Juan: 49.2 percent

San Perlita: 8.6 percent

Santa Rosa: 3.3 percent

South Padre Island: 6.2 percent

Sullivan City: 17.4 percent

Weslaco: 44.2 percent

Editor’s Note: If we have left any community out of our RGV list please email [email protected]

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above news story shows U.S. Reps. Filemon Vela and Vicente Gonzalez. (Photo credit: Texas Tribune)

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