State Census Panel Weighs Spending Priorities

The Maryland Complete Count Committee (CCC) this week convened to assess ongoing efforts to prepare and mobilize for the 2020 decennial census. The CCC is charged with developing and implementing an outreach strategy to build partnerships and coordinate with local governments, non-profits, and other organizations across the state to ensure a fair and accurate census count.

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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.

As previously reported on Conduit Street, the 2020 Census Grant Panel awarded over $4 million in matching funds to local governments and organizations that serve hard-to-count communities. Ten counties applied for and received grant funding.

At issue is how to allocate the remainder of the budget, which is administered by the Maryland Department of Planning (MDP). The Department’s plan designates the remaining funds to a statewide marketing campaign and to local governments that did not receive state grant funding.

According to Maryland Matters:

… the Planning Department has an additional $900,000 to spend on communications and outreach efforts, and members of the Complete Count Committee (CCC) are worried that the agency hasn’t devised a plan for how to allocate the funding and what to use the money for – especially when it comes to touching populations that may be harder to reach.

“We want to make sure that there’s accountability and that these things are really happening,” said Walkiria Pool, president and founder of Centro de Apoyo Familiar, a faith-based economic empowerment nonprofit in Riverdale, and co-chairwoman of the CCC.

Some committee members have been skeptical of [Maryland Department of Planning Secretary Robert] McCord’s earlier suggestion that a significant chunk of the state’s money be sent to the Maryland Association of Counties and the Maryland Municipal League for Census outreach; MACo officials have in fact told the state they don’t want it and would prefer grants be made directly to local governments or relevant community groups. Several of the state’s largest jurisdictions have launched “Complete Count” efforts of their own.

MDP has since made clear that it never proposed to allocate funds to MACo. Instead, it would send funds directly to county governments.  In fact, MACo has never advocated for a role in the distribution or administration of state funds.

MDP will consider feedback and suggestions from committee members and provide a detailed spending proposal at the next CCC meeting on October 8th.

Members of the CCC include nonprofit leaders, elected officials, state agency heads, and county and municipal government representatives. Baltimore County Chief of Staff Patrick Murray represents MACo on the committee.

For more information on the 2020 Census and the CCC, visit www.census.maryland.gov.

Useful Links

Maryland Matters: Panel Frets Over State’s Outreach on Census

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: MD Complete Count Committee Commences; Census Grants Awarded

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