A map showing all the Census tracts with hard-to-count residents in Dallas County. Each person missed will cost the region about $1,500. (Photo courtesy CUNY)

Local News

Dallas County Moves Forward on Paying for Census Outreach

An undercount would cost us millions. And now, even if it is a bit later than other urban areas, Dallas County is beginning the process.

Dallas County will have a census outreach effort after all. The Commissioners Court this week approved a request for vendors to submit bids to organize and enact the efforts of finding people who might prefer to stay hidden—and then convince them to fill out a census. The county stands to lose an estimated $1,578 per person per year who doesn’t fill it out next year. The federal government uses the census to determine how much money it will send the states to pay for healthcare, education, transportation, and more. Texas gets about $43 billion each year based on its 2010 census counts.

Dallas County is among the last major urban areas in America to begin this process. Which is especially concerning because the state of Texas is one of fewer than 15 states to set aside zero public dollars for this. It basically put the responsibilities on counties and municipalities. (Fort Worth, as the Star-Telegram reported out this weekend, is another.) I wrote about this challenge last week.

But the stars are aligning: County Judge Clay Jenkins made this a priority. And now the city has vowed its support, which will likely come in the form of a bunch of money. Elizabeth Saab, the city of Dallas’ external relations manager who is helping organize city staff’s census efforts, told the commissioners that the City Council will be briefed on September 18. The Council’s vote is scheduled for the 25th.

“The city of Dallas is fully onboard,” Saab said.

Councilman Casey Thomas, who is the chair of the city’s Complete Count Committee, said last month that the city manager was “finalizing the process for the identifying the source of funds” and that it would be included in the budget.

The commissioners’ discussion was largely ceremonial. It wasn’t pulled for an individual vote or debate, which means it was included in the batch of items that commissioners approved at once. Commissioner J.J. Koch asked about the data, making sure that the vendor would release it to the public. It will be, and perhaps it could be used to analyze local data for health and human services or maybe DART takes it to rejigger its bus routes.

“We can use that data in many different ways,” Koch said.

Now the gears are moving. The city is still raising private dollars and waiting to hear back. But the governments—the ones that will really get hurt in an undercount—are now moving forward.

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