City, county officials prepare for 2020 US Census

City of Austin and Travis County leaders are coming together a year ahead of time to start getting the message out about the 2020 U.S. Census.

Their message is "Everybody needs to be counted."

"Whether you are laying your head on a pillow in a high rise in downtown Austin, or whether you're laying your head on a pillow at the ARCH, we want your participation," Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt said. "You are our neighbor."

In a press conference Monday, Eckhardt and Austin Mayor Steve Adler spoke about how it is crucial that everyone participates.

"It determines the number of seats that Austin and Travis County have in the United States Congress," Adler said. "It determines how district lines are drawn."

Adler said most importantly the census count will direct how around $800 billion in federal funding is allocated in communities across the country. 

"It's Medicaid, and Medicare, it's the state children's health insurance program or CHIP, it's Section 8 housing, it's affordable housing support and monies," Adler said.

The press conference also marked the forming of a "Complete Count Committee" to raise awareness about the importance of taking part in the census.

The city said that counting everyone is challenging. There's a possibility a citizenship question will be added, but the city said that decision is pending a response from the U.S. Supreme Court. 

The mayor is encouraging the community that the census is safe, confidential and encrypted.

"It is not turned over to immigration, it is not turned over to ICE, it's not turned over to Homeland Security," Adler said. "This is a place where folks can feel free."

The city of Austin says next year between March and July, people will be able to respond to the census by phone, e-mail or online.