Mailboxes line the entryway to the lobby of Calcasieu Apartments.
On March 12, households across the nation will start to receive letters asking them to self-respond to the census questionnaire online. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

After months of preparation, the 2020 census goes live on Thursday.

On that day, households across the nation will start to receive letters asking them to self-respond to the census questionnaire online, City Census Administrator Berta Rodriguez said.

“The letter will have a unique ID code but there’s no need to wait for it [to fill out the form online],” Rodriguez said. “The code is tied to the household address, and individuals will see a place on the form where they can type their address.”

Local officials have stressed for months the importance of the decennial census. A “complete count” of everyone in the San Antonio and Bexar County area determines federal funding in the future and informs the drawing of congressional districts. Texas stands to gain two or three congressional seats from this census count. And an undercount of 1 percent in Texas could mean losing out on as much as $300 million per year in federal funding.

Rodriguez said approximately 25 percent of Bexar County is at risk of being undercounted. The U.S. Census Bureau has also identified target populations most at risk of not responding, including people with language barriers, seniors, households with children under 5 years of age, and people with no or little access to computers or the internet.

People can visit different libraries in San Antonio or Bibliotech locations to fill out the census on computers there, Rodriguez said. Residents can also self-respond via phone call, if they’d prefer, or by mail.

The census questionnaire covers nine topics:

  • Number of people living or currently staying in the house, apartment, or mobile home
  • Whether the residence is a house, apartment, or mobile home
  • Telephone number
  • Name
  • Sex
  • Age and date of birth
  • Hispanic origin
  • Race
  • Relationships of persons in the household, including opposite- and same-sex spouses and unmarried

There is no citizenship question on the census form. The form does not contain solicitations for donations or questions asking for personally identifying information, such as a Social Security number or banking information, Rodriguez said.

“If any of those questions are there, it’s not an official census form,” she said.

April 1 is Census Day, and respondents should note their place of residence as the place they will be living on that day. If a household has not responded to the census by April 30, census takers will begin knocking on doors to make sure everyone is counted.

Jackie Wang covered local government for the San Antonio Report.