OPINION: Participating in census program could mean millions for Texas

Published 7:18 am Saturday, January 22, 2022

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It’s been more than a year since the U.S. Census was supposed to be completed. But your community still has a lot to lose if the count isn’t right.
Population counts conducted through the census determine how much federal funding flows to states, cities and towns. Incorrect counts can strip Texans of millions in federal dollars that can be used for road improvements, housing, Medicaid and other basic needs and services.
If you or your local officials determine your 2020 Census counts may have some inaccuracies, then your community could miss out on federal tax dollars, and you deserve to have that money spent in your community.
The COVID-19 pandemic left the 2020 count especially vulnerable to undercounts. Despite a 2020 Census count showing that Texas gained more people than any other state in the nation, the Urban Institute found that our population may have been undercounted by 1.28%. That small percentage could cost Texas $247 million in Medicaid reimbursements alone.

There is an important mechanism to fix problems with the census count. It’s called the Census Count Question Resolution (CQR) Program. This very technical and bureaucratic-sounding process allows state, local, and tribal governments to request a review of 2020 Census counts of housing units in their jurisdictions.
Through the program, the Census Bureau determines whether processing or geographical errors contributed to housing count inaccuracies. If the review leads to a corrected count of housing units, the Census Bureau will publish the revised counts on the CQR website and use the updated numbers in all subsequent population estimates.
An analysis by the Institute of Public Policy at George Washington University found that Texas received more than $59 billion in federal dollars in 2016 from programs that rely on census population data.
The impact of an incorrect census count can last for years. These population distribution and density tallies also help determine whether communities are designated as metropolitan, rural, or urban areas. That affects federal funding formulas.
The Census CQR does not review population counts themselves. But it does make sure that measurements of housing units are in line with population counts. If there are big discrepancies, it could lead to corrections that boost a city or community’s population count — and the funding that the city or community can qualify for.
A decade ago, the city of Cibolo had its geographic boundaries reviewed after the 2010 Census. The review of housing units within its city limits resulted in a 4,000-person increase to their population counts. This revised count was included in all subsequent population estimates and for federal funding distribution and resulted in far more federal funding across the community for a wide variety of needs.
The Census Bureau is available to help local officials going through this process. The Texas Demographic Center is sponsoring a webinar with the Census Bureau at 10:00AM on Thursday, Jan. 27 to discuss the process and answer questions. Local governmental units can learn more about the CQR process by visiting the Census Bureau’s CQR website or by contacting them directly at 1-888-369-3617 or dcmd.2020.cqr.submissions@census.gov.
The Demographic Center (which is funded by the state), Texas 2036 and others are shining a light on this issue because accurate and complete data is an essential tool for ensuring Texas is prepared for the future.

Holly Heard, Ph.D. is director of data and analytics at Texas 2036. Lloyd Potter, Ph.D. is the Texas State Demographer and Director of the Texas Demographic Center.