New Report Says $1.5 Trillion in Federal Funding to States and Localities Annually Depends Upon Good Census Count

As if the stakes for the 2020 Census were not already high, a new report released today shows that more than $1.5 trillion dollars a year in federal funding distributed to states and localities is derived from Census data. The news is the latest finding from the “Counting for Dollars 2020″ project led by Professor Andrew Reamer at George Washington University, who has been studying the issue since 2009.

The annual total of $1.5 trillion is a significant increase from the project’s last major compilation published in May of this year because the data has been updated from the FY2016 to the FY2017 federal budget, and the project team expanded their research from 55 large federal programs to a complete list of 316 federal programs that rely on census derived data.

According to the new report from the George Washington Institute of Public Policy at George Washington University, “Census-guided federal spending programs vary substantially in terms of size, geographic focus, and extent of reliance on and uses of census-derived data. The common element across these programs is that a state or area’s receipt of its fair share of federal funds depends on the accuracy of its census population count.”

Professor Reamer added, “While several studies by Congress and Census Bureau itself over the decades have done a fair job of describing this impact, the new report is the most comprehensive and robust compilation to date of federal programs that use census data to fairly distribute federal funding.”

The report was released today at an event hosted by the National League of Cities in Washington, D.C. with many representatives of census stakeholder groups who have been working for years on a fair, complete, and accurate 2020 count.

Ms. Beth Lynk, Director of Census Counts Campaign, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights said the report’s findings drive home how important a quality count is next year, particularly for communities historically undercounted.

“Every community and every state has a critical choice to make: go all in on ensuring a fair and accurate Census or miss out on a pot of more than $1.5 trillion a year in federal funding to support your schools, roads, and health centers.”

Tom Beers, Executive Director, National Association for Business Economics (NABE), said, “…the Census is the backbone of the nation’s statistical system and the basis of everything that we know about the economy. Reliable Census data is essential to the ability of economists to inform business decisions at their companies.”

“Our Census Project stakeholders have always known that the fiscal health of our local communities was incredibly dependent upon a good census. This new data, thanks to Professor Reamer and his team, shows that total is  almost double what we previously understood. That gives a whole new meaning to an undercount and how local communities can lose out and be shortchanged if they don’t stand up to be counted,” said Census Project co-director Mary Jo Hoeksema.

Howard Fienberg of the Census Project said, “Think about it: $1.5 trillion a year over the next decade is $15 trillion in fairly-distributed funding for state and local communities. There can’t be any stronger motivation for every town, city, county, and state to fully mobilize for a quality 2020 count.”

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