Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2017
Asheville—In a letter to the North Carolina congressional delegation, but focusing on western North Carolina’s U.S. Representatives Mark Meadows (R-Asheville) and Patrick McHenry (R-Hickory), a group of area organizations sounded the alarm that without an increase the FY 2018 Census Bureau budget now before Congress, North Carolina could suffer from a worsening undercount – especially of the youngest residents.
The group declared that “based on current levels of proposed funding, we are concerned about the Census Bureau’s ability to implement a successful 2020 enumeration” unless funding increases are forthcoming right away.
The group noted U.S. Representative Meadows, in particular, plays an important role in Congress as the chair of the House Subcommittee on Government Operations, which oversees the Census Bureau.
“Congress is currently engaged in budget negotiations that will determine the accuracy and completeness of the census count nationally and in North Carolina. Unfortunately, the latest House budget proposal falls more than $300 million short of adequately funding census efforts. Inadequate funding has already forced cancellation of two of three scheduled comprehensive census field tests and delayed important outreach activities. These cancellations and delays mean fewer field test opportunities prior to the decennial census leaving operations vulnerable to costly, backend challenges as Census Day approaches,” the congressional representatives were told.
The letter also detailed an undercount of young North Carolina children in the last census. The Census Bureau estimates that over 25,000 young children in North Carolina were not counted in the 2010 census, the 8th highest amount in the country. When young children are left out of the census it means fewer resources for critical programs that promote healthy growth and development during early childhood, like Head Start, the Child Care and Development Block Grant, and the Maternal and Child Health Service Block Grant.
The first step in understanding and addressing the needs of North Carolina children is knowing basic facts about where they live and how old they are; their health, economic and educational circumstances; and how many there are.
Adding to the rising worries of a failed census, a report released last week by the group noted that census data guides billions of dollars annually in federal resources to North Carolina’s state and local governments for vital programs.
“That’s why getting an accurate census count is essential to the well-being of our state’s children,” the letter states. “The census directly affects the allocation of $16.3 billion in federal resources to our state. It ensures that these resources are directed strategically and that the needs of children in rural and other communities are appropriately represented in the statehouse and in Congress.”
“A higher funding level is required to ensure an accurate and complete 2020 Census,” the letter declared, “to avoid large cost increases during decennial census field operations that result from inadequate planning and preparation, and to preserve the quality of vital datasets that inform policymaking on behalf of children and youth.”
The coalition of groups – including Children First/Communities In Schools of Buncombe County, the Community Foundation of Western North Carolina and Smart Start of Transylvania County – has come together to ensure North Carolina is fairly and accurately counted in the 2020 national decennial census – which is just over two years away and in critical pre-planning phase. The groups note the state has one of the most diverse populations and geographies in the nation, and presents unique challenges to ensure a full, fair and accurate count.
“The Constitution gives Congress responsibility for getting the census right. A failed census would mean fewer resources and opportunities for North Carolinians, including our youngest residents. We urge members of Congress to prioritize funding for the 2020 Census to ensure an accurate and complete count in North Carolina,” the letter to the state’s congressional delegation concluded.