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The Importance of the 2020 Census on Florida

Author: Helios Education Foundation

July 27, 2020

The results of the 2020 Census will help determine how hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funding flow into communities every year for the next decade. That funding shapes many different aspects of every community, regardless of size or location. 

Programs that impact the education system such as Title 1 Grants to Local Education Agencies, National School Lunch Program, Special Education Grants, State Children’s Health Insurance (CHIP), and Head Start / Early Head Start are all impacted by Census data. An accurate Census count ensures each state is adequately funded to meet evolving priorities over the next ten years. 

From a Florida perspective, there is much at stake. According to the Florida Nonprofit Alliance, more than one third (33.2%) of Florida’s general revenues come from federal aid ($25.5 billion). In addition to federal funding, given an accurate Census count, Florida  stands to gain up to two additional congressional seats, enhancing the state’s political capital. 

The U.S. Census Bureau has urged households to submit their census responses online at www.my2020census.gov. However, completing the Census count via online submission is highly controversial as it is speculated to lead to an undercount. Traditionally, high poverty areas, minority communities, and communities with young children  - are often the ones with the lowest census participation - an issue some fear will compound if online completion is the only option. 

In order to ensure a complete count, Census Bureau staff were scheduled to visit communities door-to-door during the spring to assist individuals who had not completed the Census online. However, the pandemic delayed that staff deployment. Currently, the national response rate is at 62.6% as of July 23. Florida’s response rate lags behind the nation at 59.7%. There is still a large portion of the population that needs to be counted. 

The Census’s emphasis on online completion provides an opportunity during the COVID-19 pandemic. Because the Bureau did not have to shift from a mostly-in-person strategy to online strategy, the infrastructure for completion was already in place, unlike many other systems that were impacted during the pandemic. The Census Bureau also extended its Census completion date from August 15 to October 31, providing more than two additional months for completion. The Census Bureau announced on July 14, it would begin sending workers into communities with the lowest 2020 Census response rates to encourage and assist people with their Census response. 

What was previously seen as a barrier can be turned into an opportunity if networks of organizations work together to encourage participation. Whether it is a school district, a nonprofit organization, or a university or college, we can all work together and share with our networks the Census deadline has been extended, how the census can be completed, and the importance to our communities. 

Share with students, parents, community leaders, and others how to complete the Census. These ways include: 

Together, we can achieve an accurate count; the next 10 years of funding and services for communities depend on it. 

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