DALLAS - This is the U.S. Census season.
It’s the once-a-decade window when the government does a headcount. And based on that count, it distributes federal dollars and realigns seats in the House of Representatives. But the census process, like everything else, is hampered because of the COVID-19 coronavirus.
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This is the first decade where the internet is part of the response process, and it may have an unexpected part in completing the census in Dallas. And now because of social distancing, a bigger census role is playing out on social media.
Sophia Johnson is president of ABI Marketing and coordinator for Dallas 2020 Census.
“The once-every-ten-years count of the people, the census, means a lot to North Texas. So it is across the board the funding that is affected by the census and the power we will have at the federal level,” she said. “So our approach was going to be heavy on meeting people in their natural gathering places.”
But COVID-19 replaced face-to-face with social distancing. The census promotion is now moving to digital platforms.
“When it comes to digital wherever people are gathering, that’s where the census will be in terms of ads and communication,” Johnson said.
They are communicating how important it is for everyone 18 and over to fill out the census.
Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Dallas) says the group most undercounted is the group we need to count the most.
“Because usually they are the people who have the need that we're trying to remedy,” she said. “We lose a lot of money when the count is incorrect.”
Dallas ISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa says a lot of district funding is tied to the census and 45 percent of district students are English learners.
“So they need to understand this is very important and that the information they provide cannot be used in any way to inhibit their mobility or anything else,” he said.
The superintendent says the coronavirus crisis that closed schools may have opened an opportunity: using laptops and hot spots distributed to students.
“Maybe we can also help everybody fill out their census online with our equipment,” Hinojosa said.
He hopes the equipment will get some people counted who may otherwise have been missed by the census.
There will likely be some census canvassing, but that's contingent on what the virus does. The date to have the U.S. Census completed has been pushed back to the end of August.