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U.S. Census Bureau, Port Arthur begin 2020 Census count plans

The U.S. Census Bureau and Port Arthur officials are already looking ahead to find optimal ways to begin gathering information for the 2020 Census.

Terry Bennett, the 2020 Census Bureau media specialist for African American affairs, said correspondences would be sent out starting March 1. The actual census date is April 1.

“We are starting out by doing the mailings,” she said. “We’re also doing it over the Internet now. So it’s important for everyone to start answering the post as soon as they receive the questions. Our main goal is to count everybody once, only once and in the right place.”

Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce president Pat Avery said having the right population count affects Jefferson County and all of Southeast Texas region.

“Port Arthur has lost population with Hurricane Harvey and other storms,” she said. “We still haven’t gotten people back from those, so it’s important that we count each and every individual this time around.”

Avery said there are a lot of local efforts and initiatives kick starting to make sure every individual is counted.

The Southeast Texas Regional Planning Commission is kicking off those efforts with a press conference at 1 p.m. Nov. 20 at the office in Beaumont, 2210 Eastex Fwy.

“The chamber is involved, the Southeast Texas Regional Planning Commission is heavily involved, the city of Port Arthur and Port Arthur ISD is involved. There is a lot of initiatives going on to count each person,” she said.

Reaching out to those that aren’t computer savvy, the elderly and immigrants are a few ways local community members can help, Avery said.

“We want our Hispanic community to not be afraid and know that it won’t impact them living in the United States,” she said. “We also need to assist our elderly who may not know how to navigate the questions electronically. It’s just really important to be factual and that we count our elderly, minorities and children.”

Bennett said plans have already started to count previously problematic areas such as disaster prone areas and children under 5.

“We are reaching all school districts in Southeast Texas, encouraging all parents to count their children to receive allocated funding for free lunch programs, health screenings and school transportation,” she said. “We want to reach all the districts and all the children. We will start giving the children the correspondences in school and they will take them home to their parents.”

Port Arthur, which has surpassed the 50,000 thresholds since 1995 and had a count of 53,828 in 2010, is anticipating lower numbers after population loss.

Bob Dickinson, director of transportation and environmental resources at the SETX Regional Planning Commission, said getting over the 50,000 mark is more imperative to the region for the 2020 Census than any previous decade.

“The way they allocate federal funding is there’s certain benefits that come only with a certain population threshold,” he said. “The federal funding is for highway, schools, housing, meals on wheels and more. Everybody, not just local, use census numbers to make decisions for new facilities, new schools, new business warehouses, etc.

“The census is critically important. We need the largest participation rate we can get this next year. The higher the count, the better off everybody is.”

For more information, visit 2020census.gov.