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Houston’s Response to 2020 Census Crucial for Next Decade

Published May 20, 2020 by Kelsey Seeker

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The ability of the Houston region to recover from the pandemic depends greatly on the resources available to our community.

The 2020 Census counts every person in the United States and then determines congressional representation, federal funding and important data for each state and region. Federal funding to support healthcare, education, infrastructure and other critical services depend on an accurate count of our region.

With COVID-19 forcing social distancing measures and delaying in-person outreach, the region's already challenging situation of accounting for historically hard-to-count populations is being exacerbated. 

Harris County Response Rate 

The Houston region’s response rate to the 2020 Census is trailing behind the nation.

As the greater Houston region responds to both the COVID-19 health crisis as well as the economic downturn, participation in the Census is more crucial than ever. Underrepresentation could mean fewer federal dollars for many Texas public services. 

The Monetary Value of the Census 

The results of the 2010 Census granted $101.6 billion to federal spending programs in Texas distributed by state and local governments, businesses, nonprofits, hospitals and households. 

To give a few examples of how funding is distributed - nearly 25% of all of the Census-guided education funds to Texas went to the greater Houston region. Based off the 2010 Census, the state received $1.4 billion in Title I grants to local education agencies and the region received more than $346 million.   

The Gulf Coast region also received 25.6% of the state’s share for the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, which is designed to help job seekers access employment, education, training, and support services to find jobs and to match employers with the skilled workers they need to compete in the global economy. 

Additionally, Census data is a crucial part of emergency response and recovery efforts that take place after natural disasters, such as Hurricane Harvey, informing the federal government where specific resources should be deployed, and allowing helping emergency planners to prepare for the potential impact of weather events. 

Ensuring our region receives its adequate share of federal funds requires participation in the 2020 Census, which supports bringing opportunity for all Houstonians. 

How to Improve the Region’s Response 

While efforts to complete the Census have been hampered by COVID-19, responses are still accepted in one of three ways: online, by phone or by mail.   

The U.S. Census is critical to the continued growth of society, providing critical data used by lawmakers, business owners and many others use to provide daily services, products, and support for communities. 

For resources and information on how your company can support 2020 Census participation, click here

Visit the Partnership's COVID-19 Resource page for updates, guidance for employers and more information. And sign up for daily email alerts from the Partnership as the situation develops. 

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Survey: Majority of Houston Employers Encouraging Vaccines, More Flexible with Remote Work 

With the state of Texas now fully open and COVID-19 cases in decline, Houston companies are grappling with how to resume operations in a safe and secure fashion that also conveys a sense of normalcy.  The Greater Houston Partnership conducted a wide-ranging survey among its members to gauge sentiment on issues including vaccine requirements for employees, return-to-workplace timelines and ongoing health and safety practices. A total of 141 firms responded to the survey conducted June 3-7.  The vast majority of Houston-area employers (87%) are encouraging but not requiring vaccinations among their employees, with about a quarter using some form of tangible incentive (monetary, time off, etc.) to gain compliance. Just 8% are requiring employees to get vaccinated. Fifty-two percent of companies said they are tracking employee vaccinations, and of those a little over a third are requiring proof while another third are conducting non-anonymous surveys.  In terms of health and safety protocols, 55% of respondent companies said they require non-vaccinated employees to wear a mask while the rest are split between mandating masks for all (22%) and not mandating masks at all (24%). Just 21% said they have eliminated social distancing indoors altogether while the rest either require social distancing among all employees (42%) or only among the non-vaccinated (38%). Asked about the health and safety measures being deployed in the workplace, the top answers were enhanced cleaning services, limiting elevator capacity and providing individual safety equipment and supplies.   Following a year that saw significant job losses across the region, companies are working to regain their footing. Asked how their employee count has changed since the pandemic began in March 2020, 49% said it has remained the same while the remaining companies were evenly split (nearly 26%) among those who have increased staff and those who have cut staff. Of those companies that lost staff, 38% experienced a decline of 6 to 10% while 21% saw losses of 11 to 20%.  Asked about plans to resume on-site operations, nearly 20% of respondents said they never closed while another 47% either said they had already reopened or would do so this month. Another 9% expect to reopen in July or August, and 20% will open in September or later. Houston area employers appear to be more open to flexible work arrangements post-pandemic. Employers were asked about their plans for remote work in the near-term (1 to 3 months) and medium-term (3-12 months). See the results in the chart below.  Click to expand Employers’ top outside concerns regarding reopen are: staff vaccinations (72% rated it extremely/very important), community vaccination rate (65%) and community herd immunity (60%).  “We conducted this survey to help local employers determine how others are handling the tough issues surrounding reopening," said Bob Harvey, president and CEO of the Greater Houston Partnership. "What we found is that there is a definitive cultural shift in how some companies are approaching issues like remote work. They also told us that vaccinations are the most important part of their return to onsite operations. This is all significant data as companies try to regain what they’ve lost during the pandemic and return employees to work.”   Click here to see the results of the survey. 
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