The group created by Gov. Tom Wolf to ensure that all Pennsylvanians are counted in the 2020 Census said Monday that it is asking the state to pledge $1 in funding for every current resident — or more than $12 million — for outreach and education.
The allocation of hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funding, each state’s share of U.S. House seats, and voting district boundaries rely on population numbers from the decennial census, which is mandated by the Constitution.
With so much at stake, Pennsylvania’s Census 2020 Complete Count Commission is seeking the funds as part of its campaign to teach residents — especially historically undercounted groups — about the importance of the census so they fill out their questionnaires.
“For every person we miss, every community we undercount, and all the groups we ignore, that will have a tremendous impact on the federal program funding, critical data for business owners, and building an improved Pennsylvania,” Micah Sims, a 2020 Census Complete Count commissioner and executive director of the good-government group Common Cause Pennsylvania, said in a statement Monday.
Representatives of more than 40 community organizations, local-government associations, education groups, religious organizations, and others are on the census commission.
New Jersey lawmakers introduced two bills in February that also seek $1 per state resident for census funding — or about $9 million.
Next year’s census presents some new or growing challenges for states and local communities trying to make sure the count includes all their residents. Census Bureau officials are worried the country’s low unemployment rate will make hiring census takers difficult. This will be the first census for which the bureau will encourage people to answer forms online, so digital divides could be a hurdle. They fear that increasing mistrust of government also will keep some people from answering the census.
The Trump administration wants the 2020 Census to ask for residents’ citizenship status, a question asked off and on through the decades. Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Philadelphia are among the dozens of governments that have sued to keep the question off the census, since the Census Bureau estimates it presence would deter millions of people from answering their questionnaires.
California, one of the states that sued, already has committed $100 million to census efforts — or about $2.50 per person — and its governor’s proposed budget includes an additional $54 million.
Wolf did not include census money in his proposed budget for next fiscal year, but he supports the commission’s recommendation for a “relatively modest investment that would pay long-term dividends in return,” according to a statement by Wolf spokesperson J.J. Abbott.
“Gov. Wolf formed the Complete Count Commission to determine Pennsylvania’s needs in a collaborative way to ensure every resident is counted,” Abbott said. “A complete count is essential to maintain our representation nationally and funding levels from the federal government.”