With one week left to respond to the 2020 census, Bexar County is still in pursuit of perfect attendance.

About 95 percent of Bexar County households have responded to the census so far, according to local Census Bureau officials, which includes people who filled out the census, people who refused to answer census questions, and information on unattended homes gathered by asking neighbors about that household.

However, 95 percent could still cost Bexar County and the state of Texas millions in federal funding. According to Bexar County census liaison Dwayne Robinson, an undercount of any size could have far-reaching effects on federal dollars over the next 10 years.

“Even a 1 percent undercount is quite significant in federal funding for the state of Texas and therefore Bexar County,” he said.

“An undercount of 1 percent equates to a loss of $300 million [a year] for the state of Texas. So yeah. The goal is 100 percent.”

In Texas, 96 percent of households have been counted, according to the U.S. Census Bureau on Wednesday. Bexar County’s self-response rate is 66.4 percent, which is higher than the state’s 61.9 percent, putting Texas as the 38th in self-response nationally.

Much of Bexar County’s self-response rate can be attributed to the 26 suburban cities, Robinson said. For instance, Shavano Park boasts an 86.9 percent self-response rate while San Antonio’s is 64.8 percent. And though Robinson said he once harbored dreams of a much higher self-response rate, Bexar County’s is laudable considering the impact the coronavirus pandemic had on census outreach efforts, he said.

“My uncle used to always tell me that my grandmother used to always tell him that excuses only satisfy the person that’s giving them,” Robinson said. “But I’m going to blame it all that durn pandemic. Because from the complete count perspective, a lot of our planning was around high-touch events. We were planning a lot of events to physically be in the presence of a lot of people … 90 plus percent of our strategy, from that perspective, was toward high-touch [events].”

Still, the Complete Count Committee for Bexar County and San Antonio wants to bring people together safely while focusing on census participation with a free show at the AT&T Center starring comedian Marcus D. Wiley. The show, which people can watch from their cars, will be focused on humorously encouraging people to fill out the census before Wednesday.

Beyond the outreach efforts to encourage residents to self-respond, federal census workers have been knocking on doors to fill in the gap left by people who did not complete the census themselves. About 29 percent of Bexar County’s response was gathered by enumerators, who are still knocking on doors to ask people the nine questions on the 2020 census before the Sept. 30 deadline, Robinson said. 

“I hope that nobody takes for granted how important a census is,” Robinson said. “Once every 10 years, it’s critical.

“And you can’t do a do-over!”

Fill out the census by going to my2020census.gov, or find instructions on how to respond via phone here. The deadline to respond to the 2020 census is next Wednesday.

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Jackie Wang

Jackie Wang is the local government reporter at the San Antonio Report.