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Capitol Correspondence - 01.14.19

As States Prepare 2020 Census Planning Committees, Possible Opportunities for Providers to Perform Important Outreach

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ANCOR is sharing this article from The Hill because individuals with disabilities tend to be under-counted in the Census, yet Census data is critical to establishing how much funding is needed for federal, state and local programs. This includes Medicaid, special education, public transportation, housing and other key programs and supports that individuals with disabilities rely upon to live quality lives. If you are in one of the states with a Complete Count Committee as described in the article below, it could be worth reaching out to those Committees in the coming year to ensure the individuals you support, their families and your staff have opportunities to be counted – and time to voice any concerns they might have as well on accessibility of the forms, privacy, etc.

“With billions of dollars in federal money on the line, state and local governments are budgeting hundreds of millions of dollars to convince their residents to respond to next year’s Census. 

Many states are budgeting far more for community outreach than they have in previous Census cycles, a reflection, some legislators said, of concern that this decade’s count is at risk of missing thousands of residents.


The stakes are so high because the decennial Census is used to determine how the federal government allocates money from hundreds of programs to state and local governments.

Census-driven statistics are used to dole out more than $800 billion a year through about 300 federally-run programs, according to Andrew Reamer, a research professor at The George Washington University’s Institute of Public Policy.

‘Most of it actually is programs involving low income people. School lunches, food stamps, Medicaid. All of these programs, Congress authorizes a certain amount of money for the programs but the distribution is based on either simple or elaborate formulas for how much each state gets,’ said Robert Shapiro, who oversaw the 2000 Census as President Bill Clinton’s Under Secretary of Commerce for economic affairs.

‘The smaller your undercount, the fewer number of people who are not counted, the bigger the slice of that $800 billion your state will get.’

This year, state and local governments say they are more worried about the potential for an undercount than they have been in previous Census cycles.

More than a dozen states and several cities have sued the Trump administration over a plan to add a question about citizenship on the 2020 Census forms, something experts say threatens to scare away already hard-to-reach communities from participating in the count.


A single uncounted resident can cost a state as much as $19,000 in federal funds, Reamer found.

To avoid undercounts, cities like Seattle, Baltimore and Salt Lake have created what they call Complete Count Committees, drawing together stakeholders who represent traditionally hard-to-reach communities.


Six state legislatures have created their own Complete Count commissions. Eleven state governors have created similar versions through executive actions.

The commissions have support from both sides of the aisle. A version passed in Michigan was sponsored by a Republican state legislator. Republican governors in Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky and Mississippi all created their own Complete Count boards.


In California, the legislature has already appropriated $100 million to ensure a complete count — four times as much as the state spent before the 2000 Census, and 50 times as much as they spent in 2010, when the recession forced sharp budget cutbacks.

Berman said spending nine figures to promote Census participation is critical for a state that gets $78 billion from the federal government. He said a full count would ensure that California keeps all 53 seats it holds in the U.S. House of Representatives, too.


Mounting a completely accurate count of more than 330 million people while accounting for migration, births and deaths is virtually impossible, but the Census Bureau comes pretty close.

After the 2010 count, the Bureau said it had actually overcounted the American population by about 36,000 people — a result not statistically significant from a perfect count.

But certain communities are less likely to participate or be counted than others. The Census Bureau said it undercounted African Americans by about 2.1 percentage points, and Hispanic Americans by 1.5 percentage points.


Young men were more likely to be undercounted, while young women were more likely to be overcounted.”