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Port Arthur response rate to Census 2020 remains low

The response rate to Census 2020 in Port Arthur has increased only 1.1 percent in the past 34 days.

The rate stands at 47.4 percent as of Tuesday (June 30), still well below the 2010 final rate of 59.1 percent for the city and even the present rates of 61.8 percent nationally and 56.5 percent for Texas.

Representatives with the U.S. Census Bureau presented the numbers to the Port Arthur City Council during a special meeting Tuesday via zoom.

“Our census operations have been extended,” said Rebecca Briscoe, a partnership coordinator with the bureau. “If we did not have the pandemic, our operations would end on July 31. Instead, they will be extended to Oct. 31.”

City council districts 1 and 2 are experiencing the lowest response within Port Arthur, ranging between 31 and 40 percent. Districts 3 and 4 are at a slightly higher range, between 41 and 50 percent.

Briscoe said census workers would begin to aggressively reach out to residents so that the city can remain at or above a threshold of 50,000 residents to avoid losing federal funding. Port Arthur’s estimated population as of July 2019 was 54,280, and its population during the 2010 census was 53,818.

“The data we capture today will impact how we evolve over the next 10 years,” she said. “We can exceed the 50,000 population mark so we can get the resources that we need.”

Tiffany Guillory, also with the Census Bureau, said workers would reach out to apartment complexes throughout the city next week and needed places of worship and essential businesses such as grocery stores to promote response to the census questionnaires.

Mayor Pro Tem Charlotte Moses suggested city officials place reminders about the census in water bills.

“I truly believe the key to a successful census will be a grassroots effort, going door-to-door,” District 4 Councilman Harold Doucet said, adding census workers could help residents complete the response.

In other city business:

  • The city council has held a special executive meeting each Tuesday to extend its declaration of disaster in response to the coronavirus pandemic, but beginning July 7, that could be extended every 14 days to fall in line with regular meeting dates. The declaration is a formal document in which the city acknowledges a disaster and begins exercising its emergency plan, as required under the Texas Government Code.
  • The date that the “no-cutoff” policy for delinquent water utility accounts will end has been changed to July 8. The policy was originally implemented to assist customers affected by the pandemic.

Customers needing to pay delinquent water bills will be allowed to enter the water utilities office at the city hall Annex Building starting that date at 8 a.m. Only two customers will be allowed in the building at a time.

All water customers are asked to call the Billing and Collections Division at 409-983-8230 to make arrangements for paying outstanding balances or visit the office as soon as possible.

  • City Manager Ron Burton said a survey on the number of garbage disposals at each household is being conducted. He said city officials received complaints that some households are storing more than one disposal and only being charged for one while others are charged for each disposal.

About I.C. Murrell

I.C. Murrell was promoted to editor of The News, effective Oct. 14, 2019. He previously served as sports editor since August 2015 and has won or shared eight first-place awards from state newspaper associations and corporations. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, grew up mostly in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

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