The deadline to complete the 2020 census is just more than a week away, and in communities such as Robstown, fewer than half of the estimated population has participated.
“We’re behind, so we need to catch up," Robstown Mayor Gilbert Gomez said. "And it’s very important because we have millions of dollars that are at stake."
The federal government uses census data to calculate populations of cities and counties, and then uses that information to decide how to distribute funding.
Gomez gave an example that's tied to COVID-19.
“During this pandemic, right now, Congress made available money to the states, and the governor distributed the money according to our population," he said. "So every person does count."
Gomez said only 47.2 percent of Robstown residents have filled out the census, and he's concerned about the potential lost funding.
A nonprofit organization called Nueces Together said Nueces County lost out on $1 billion in funding over the last decade because of undercounting during the previous census in 2010. And they said it's made a negative impact.
“We’re critically underfunded for things like health care, infrastructure, and business development," said Nueces Together Executive Director Patrick McDonald.
McDonald said the novel coronavirus pandemic forcing census workers to do fewer face-to-face visits largely is to blame for Nueces County possibly being undercounted again. But he said a rumor is also to blame -- a rumor he wants to squash.
“There is no citizenship question on the form," he said. "Your form is totally private and cannot be used against you by law enforcement. Anyone who is a resident living in Nueces County can, and should, take the Census regardless of their citizenship status or lack thereof.”
Gomez also is trying to reassure residents on that issue, and hopes three census drives over the next several days will bring his city's numbers up.
“Make yourself count," he said. "Make yourself part of Robstown, and help Robstown get the funding — help Nueces County get the funding that we need here for our citizens.”
The city is hosting the first census drive at Robstown City Hall from 4-7 p.m. Thursday.
Robstown ISD will host the second from 9 a.m. - 2 p.m. Saturday in the Robstown Early College High School parking lot.
The third census drive will take place at St. Anthony's Catholic Church after each Sunday Mass, from 8 a.m. until 1:30 p.m.