Census Bureau Has a ‘Homework Assignment’ for Cities and Counties

The 2020 Census may be two years away, but the federal agency that manages the constitutionally-mandated decennial population count is in full-on preparation mode. And while city and county governments aren’t officially responsible for the tally, they do have a vital role to play in helping the U.S. Census Bureau promote a fair and accurate 2020 Census.

Census data is used to allocate billions of dollars in federal funding for education, health, transportation, housing, community services, and job training. Moreover, businesses and industries decide where to locate new facilities and services based on census data, creating new jobs and promoting economic growth.

An accurate census count, or lack thereof, has a lasting effect on counties, particularly when it comes to the distribution of federal funds. An under-counted population may lead to a significant decline in federal funding flowing to county governments or county residents.

According to Route Fifty:

“We need you to make sure [that everyone knows] how important the census is to residents,” Philip Lutz, a Philadelphia-based assistant regional census manager, told a packed convention center hall on Monday at the International City / County Management Association’s annual conference, which started this weekend in Baltimore.

Lutz noted a reality that the Census Bureau faces: some people will view federal efforts to stress the importance of responding to questionnaires with suspicion. But cities and counties are often better at communicating why the census is vital to local residents.

“Who is the right messenger in your community? That is your homework assignment,” Lutz said while discussing Complete Count Committees.

Complete Count Committees (CCC) are volunteer committees established by tribal, state, and local governments and community leaders or organizations to increase awareness and motivate residents to respond to the 2020 Census. CCCs serve as state and local “census ambassador” groups that play an integral part in ensuring a complete and accurate count of the community in the 2020 Census.

Congress did not increase funding from the 2010 Census and will be facing a tighter labor market for 2020 than during the Great Recession in 2010. The Census Bureau will hire 500,000 temporary, part-time employees to conduct home visits if Census forms from the bureau don’t receive responses after a few weeks of their March arrivals.

Because census data is vital to ensuring federal support for counties, MACo supported 2018 legislation to establish the 2020 Census Grant Program, an efficient and effective system for leveraging state and local resources to promote a more accurate 2020 Census, paving the way for a fair and equitable flow of resources to the State and its local jurisdictions. The law allows local governments and nonprofit organizations to apply for matching grant funds to promote a fair and equitable 2020 Census.

Useful Links

Full coverage from Route Fifty

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Accurate Census, Effective Government

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Preparing for the 2020 Census and the Senior Boom

MACo Testimony on SB 855