About 2½ months behind schedule because of COVID-19, the door-to-door portion of the U.S. Census count officially kicked off nationwide Tuesday, Aug. 11. In Burnet County, the count has been underway for more than a week, said Doug Loveday, a senior regional media specialist for the U.S. Census Bureau.
“Enumerators are being hired locally to work locally,” Loveday said. “If you’re in Marble Falls, if you see an enumerator, that’s someone from the community, someone from the county.”
Enumerators visit homes that have not responded by mail, online, or phone to the 2020 Census count. The count wraps up Sept. 30, an extension from the original Aug. 31 deadline but a pullback from the first extension of Oct. 31.
Currently, only 56 percent of Burnet County residents have sent in their census information, which is required by law.
City by city, response percentages are:
- 65 percent in Burnet
- 61 percent in Marble Falls
- 49 percent in Bertram
- 45 percent in Granite Shoals
The Texas response rate is 58 percent; nationwide, it’s 63 percent.
“The impacts of being undercounted are such that we would be potentially underfunded on federal programs,” Burnet County Judge James Oakley cautioned.
The census also determines district lines for both state and U.S. representatives.
Oakley encouraged everyone living in the county to complete and send in the census forms mailed to their addresses earlier in the year or visit 2020census.gov to submit the form online.
Though the Burnet County numbers look bleak, Loveday said they are in line with where the local count was this time 10 years ago, despite the delay in home visits.
“The 2010 number for Burnet County was less than one percent off where we are now, and we still have six weeks to go,” said Loveday, adding that the Census Bureau’s job is to “count everyone who lives in the United States once and only once and count them in the right place.”
Respondents are asked to report the number of people living at their address on
April 1, 2020, which is Census Day. This includes those who are in the country illegally, Loveday said.
“We protect the privacy and security and confidentiality of this data,” he said. “We swear a lifetime oath that comes with strict penalties if we share this information with anyone, including law enforcement agencies like ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) or (the U.S. Department of) Homeland Security. This information is protected by law.”
Census workers going door to door are following COVID-19 safety regulations such as wearing face coverings and standing back from the door after knocking. They will each have a valid identification badge with their photograph, a U.S Department of Commerce watermark, and an expiration date. They also might be carrying Census Bureau bags and other equipment marked with a Census Bureau logo.
Besides delaying the count process, the coronavirus pandemic also impacted hiring. Herb Krasner, a retired university professor living in Spicewood, was told in February that all he needed to do was pass a background check and be sworn in to become the U.S. Census field supervisor for Burnet County. Then came the pandemic, and all the field offices shut down.
Krasner did not hear another word from the Census Bureau, despite numerous phone calls to the Leander regional field office. On Aug. 7, after DailyTrib.com sought to pin down information about the door-to-door count, Krasner was notified by phone and offered a job as an enumerator, rather than field supervisor. He turned that down.
“I guess what I’ve been doing, I’ve been doing on my own as a concerned citizen,” Krasner said. “Maybe that’s my best role in this anyway.”
Krasner has been publicizing the census process in the media and tracking response rates. With the help of Judge Oakley and local U.S. Post Offices, he worked out a plan to help people with only P.O. boxes send in their information. The U.S. Census did not, until recently, mail forms to P.O. boxes.
Krasner plans to continue encouraging participation in the census count.
Those who have not already submitted their census information can still do so by visiting 2020census.gov. You also may call 844-330-2020 or 844-468-2020 (for Spanish speakers) to complete the form by phone. If you still have the original material mailed to you in March, you can return the completed form to the given address.
“It takes no more than three minutes to do,” Judge Oakley said about filling out the census form. “It’s simple and important to the big picture of how the whole funding process works and how representation is divided up among the House of Representatives on the state and federal levels.”
A census count every 10 years is written into the U.S. Constitution. The first census was conducted in 1790. Counts must be completed and handed over to the president on Dec. 31 of the year conducted as outlined in the Constitution, Article I, Section 2.