Wolf Administration Provides Update on Census 2020 Efforts
Harrisburg, PA – Today, marking one year out from the April 1, 2020 Census Day, Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) Deputy Secretary for Community Affairs Rick Vilello was joined by members of the Governor’s Census 2020 Complete Count Commission and other cabinet officials to highlight the importance of an accurate and complete census count in Pennsylvania. The press conference provided details on the progress made so far, as well as plans for the next year and strategies to reach hard-to-count populations.
“We cannot understate the importance of a complete and accurate census count one year from today,” Vilello said. “Our census count determines the funding we get from the federal government to provide essential services to distressed individuals and their families. The Governor’s Census 2020 Complete Count Commission and this entire administration will be working diligently every day over the next year to ensure everyone in Pennsylvania gets counted on April 1, 2020.”
Governor Wolf established the Governor’s Census 2020 Complete Count Commission through Executive Order 2018-05 in September 2018. The commission will hold its first meeting in April and will recommend methods and policies to facilitate the most complete and accurate census in the year 2020, including implementing strategies to reach hard-to-count populations. Hard-to-count populations include young children, racial and ethnic minorities, people who do not speak fluent English, homeless individuals, undocumented immigrants, and mobile individuals such as college students.
To help reach those hard-to-count populations, the commission consists of 45 members representing a diverse cross-section of businesses, academia, community and nonprofit organizations, religious communities, health care communities, elected and appointed officials from all levels of government.
“Pennsylvania is more diverse today than ever before, and we are working in collaboration with statewide partners to reach individuals and communities for a complete and accurate count of all Pennsylvania residents on Census Day April 1, 2020,” said Norman Bristol Colón, executive director of the Governor’s Census 2020 Complete Count Commission. “Failing to do so can be translated into millions of dollars lost to repair critical infrastructure; support human services programs; protect our seniors, children and the most vulnerable; and local government community and economic development programs. An accurate and complete count is in the best interest of all Pennsylvania residents, institutions and organizations.”
The Complete Count Commission has also been coordinating closely with local and federal census efforts along with the Pennsylvania State Data Center. The center is the mandated census data collection institution for the commonwealth. It is providing assistance to the commission on hard-to-count populations and local and county government outreach, education, and planning. It is also assisting with tracking local complete count committees and efforts to ensure accurate information about the legal boundaries through the U.S. Census Bureau’s Boundary and Annexation Survey and Participant Statistical Areas Program.
The census is a count of all United States residents required by the U.S. Constitution every 10 years to determine congressional districts. The census is an essential policy tool. The federal government depends on census data to allocate resources, state governments use census data to draw legislative districts and to direct spending, and academics, nonprofits, and businesses rely on census data to inform and direct their work. Almost everything we know about our population and our communities comes from information collected during the decennial census and its related surveys. When Pennsylvania residents are not counted, the state loses funding and influence.
For Pennsylvania, allocations from 16 large federal assistance programs (including Medicaid, SNAP, housing vouchers, and education grants) are derived from the census count. In fiscal year 2015, the state received $26.79 billion dollars in federal grants from these 16 programs alone, an amount close to two-thirds of the entire Pennsylvania state budget. Estimates show that for every uncounted person in the next census, Pennsylvania stands to lose $2,093 in federal funding.
“We believe every Pennsylvanian deserves to be fully included in, and fully participate in their community,” said Teresa Miller, Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services. “Next year’s count is critical to ensure we meet the needs of and provide services to our most vulnerable Pennsylvanians.”
Additionally, a low count could mean Pennsylvania could lose one or two congressional seats. Pennsylvania now has 18 congressional districts, the lowest number since 1920, which limits the state’s impact on federal decisions.
Michael Gerber, DCED, 717.783.1132