If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that things don’t always go as planned. Since March, COVID-19 monopolized our national conversation and hasn’t left room for much else. We went straight from talking about lockdowns, Zoom fatigue, masks and temperature screenings to all of the above plus a Presidential election. But before the virus took hold, federal, state and local government officials were planning a very different conversation centered around a once-in-a-decade event. That event was the 2020 Census.
Unfortunately, the 2020 Census hasn’t received the attention it deserves, and its neglect could hold major consequences for Florida’s local communities. Here’s a look at why the 2020 Census is so important for local communities in Florida and throughout the nation—and why you should (immediately) fill it out if you haven’t already.
Initially, the Census Bureau planned to complete its 2020 count by the end of July. Due to COVID-19, this deadline was extended to October 31st. In August however, the Census Bureau announced it would actually end its counting efforts on September 30th, leading many to fear the shorter deadline would result in even more undercounting than is currently anticipated. Then: “In yet another reversal, a federal judge Thursday ordered the Census Bureau to adhere to its Oct. 31 deadline.” Natalie Weber of the Tampa Bay Times tells the full story here.
Regardless of the extension, statisticians still anticipate major undercounts in communities throughout the nation. Here’s why that’s a problem …
Why the Census Matters to Local Communities
- Federal Funds. The annual distribution of more than $800 billion in federal funds and grants to states and local governments is determined by population counts and community statistics (sex, age, race, etc.) primarily sourced from the census. Communities that are undercounted could miss out on vital funds from the federal government. Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics reported that residents of Congressional District 13, which includes much of Pinellas County, “could lose $6.6M in federal funding for Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program and foster care assistance programs if there is just a 1% undercount in the census.”
- Fair Representation. After the Framers of the Constitution established the legislative branch, a question arose regarding how the seats in the House of Representatives should be divided. After much debate, the Framers decided: “Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States … according to their respective Numbers …” Those “respective Numbers” would be counted every ten years through a census. Before the 2020 Census deadline was changed back to October, statisticians warned undercounts could cost Montana, Texas, Arizona, Georgia, North Carolina and Florida congressional seats. Read the full AP News story here.
- Planning and Decision Making. Census data isn’t just utilized by the government. Universities, hospitals, businesses and other private sector organizations routinely use census data to plan and make decisions. Inaccurate counts could force private sector organizations to plan without the insight that decennial censuses provide.
If you and your household have yet to fill out the 2020 Census, you should do so as soon as possible. You can fill it out online here.