Census 2020 effort complete; Port Arthur mayor says city could have used 2 more weeks

Published 12:29 am Tuesday, October 20, 2020

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The 2020 census ended Oct. 15, but when the final population numbers will be revealed is not clear.

U.S. Census Bureau officials reported Monday 99.98 percent of all housing units and addresses were accounted for nationwide. Port Arthur’s 51.6 percent self-response rate trailed the state and nationwide rates, but the Census Bureau’s Nonresponse Follow-up, or NRFU, operation helped account for nearly every address locally and nationally.

Port Arthur Mayor Thurman Bartie cautioned the housing units and addresses being counted doesn’t mean every person in each address was.

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“That is the part of how data is given and read and what makes it so crucial because they are not going to open it up again,” Bartie said. “Because of all the (obstacles) — COVID, hurricanes and other things that have occurred — we stand a chance of coming in under based upon the fact that two weeks would have made a big difference.”

Bartie is hoping the city — whose 2019 estimated population was 54,280 — remains at or above 50,000 so it doesn’t lose federal funding. The city’s count after the 2010 census was 53,818.

Final Census numbers are due to the secretary to the president within nine months of the decennial census date (April 1) under federal law, but census counts were extended due to the coronavirus crisis.

Bartie said he participated in a Zoom meeting earlier Monday with other mayors from across the country about their concerns with the census ending when more could have been counted.

“From Oct. 1-15, we had several folk we found out are Hispanic who had not been counted,” Bartie said.

The census also helps determine the number of seats for each state in the House of Representatives and redraw congressional, state and local district boundaries.

In all but one state, the overall response rate topped at 99.9 percent, according to the Census Bureau. Louisiana, which like Texas has faced multiple hurricanes, checked in at 99 percent.

For Texas, 37.1 percent of housing units and addresses were enumerated in the NRFU and 62.8 percent self-responded, as of Oct. 17. Nationally, 67 percent self-responded, beating the 66.5 percent rate in 2010.

Bartie is confident, however, in what he called a bipartisan effort in Congress to help Port Arthur not lose funding from the FAST, or Fixing America’s Surface Transportation, Act, which was passed in 2015. He said Galveston, which saw its population dip under 50,000 after 2008’s Hurricane Ike, was grandfathered into FAST Act funding. Galveston’s estimated population in 2019 rose to 50,446.

“We have been brought into it in case we come in under 50,000,” Bartie said. “When I was elected mayor over a year ago, I began work on being sure we would be protected.”

Still, it’s not known what other federal funding is at risk if Port Arthur’s count drops too low.

Data collection for the 2020 Census ended at 11:59 p.m. Hawaii Standard Time on Oct. 15, which was 4:59 a.m. Central Daylight Time Oct. 16, according to the Census Bureau. Paper responses, it reported, are still arriving and will be processed if postmarked by Oct. 15 and received at the processing center no later than Oct. 22.

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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