Local officials try to get census results corrected to ensure correct future funding

Local officials try to get census results corrected to ensure correct future funding 1

Some local officials are planning to challenge 2020 census results. They’re worried their communities were undercounted and won’t get their fair share of federal money over the coming decade.



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How much federal money will your community get this new year? It depends in part on how many residents were counted in the census. Some communities are concerned they were undercounted in 2020 and won’t get enough funding for public services for the next decade. But starting on Monday, state, local and tribal officials can try to get their census results corrected. NPR’s Hansi Lo Wang reports.

HANSI LO WANG, BYLINE: When we’re talking about the federal tax dollars that the census helps guide to local communities every year…

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MIKE DUGGAN: It’s a huge amount of money.

WANG: More than 1.5 trillion a year to be exact – billions of which have gone to places like Detroit, where Democratic Mayor Mike Duggan recently held a press conference about concerns that his city won’t get its fair share.

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DUGGAN: I mean, everything from health care funds to hot lunch funds to the school district – you go right down the line, there is a huge amount of funding that flows into the Detroit area based on the census count. It affects a lot of services in a lot of different areas.

WANG: And after the pandemic delayed counting and former President Donald Trump’s administration cut short counting, many officials have been worried the population counts released last year don’t include all of the people living in their communities, including Rob McCord, secretary of Maryland’s Department of Planning.

Are you the group of Maryland state officials most concerned about the census?

ROB MCCORD: Yes, we contain the Maryland State Data Center.

WANG: McCord has not ruled out Maryland challenging the 2020 census results through what the bureau calls its Count Question Resolution Program.

MCCORD: The state will be looking at those numbers across the board, just like all the local jurisdictions should be looking at their numbers.

WANG: And for the next year and a half, they can ask the bureau to basically double-check its work for any processing errors that may have misplaced homes or borders.

MCCORD: One of those things that people don’t normally associate with addresses is whether or not in the past 10 years an area has been annexed into a town or city.

WANG: And McCord says that kind of detail can make a big difference to a local community’s numbers, especially if new homes have been built since the last census.

MCCORD: Did the Census Bureau pick that up? Did they count these new homes as part of a town or as part of the county?

WANG: Still, any successful challenge through the bureau’s Count Question Resolution Program will likely be a Band-Aid for any community that was severely undercounted.

CARA BRUMFIELD: Unfortunately, what it doesn’t do and what it can’t do is correct for the systemic problem with the census, which is that we don’t count every person living in the United States.

WANG: Cara Brumfield is a senior policy analyst at the Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality, which has been tracking a persistent failing by the Census Bureau. Decade after decade, it has undercounted Black people, Latinos, Native Americans, renters and children under five. And a recent study by the Urban Institute suggests the 2020 census likely undercounted all of those groups at rates higher than a decade ago.

BRUMFIELD: Addressing those inequities is paramount, but that’s going to be the work that needs to be done over the coming years between now and 2030.

WANG: The Count Question Resolution Program also does not change the 2020 census data that has already been used to reallocate congressional seats and Electoral College votes, as well as redraw voting maps. But more than a trillion federal tax dollars are still on the table for officials like Detroit’s Mayor Mike Duggan to make sure end up in their communities every year.

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DUGGAN: The people of the city of Detroit are not being treated fairly. All I want – and I don’t want any special treatment. I just want our residents to be counted.

WANG: Tens of thousands of Detroit’s residents may not have been counted, according to a recent report by researchers at the University of Michigan and Wayne State University. And city officials say they’re skeptical that the bureau’s Count Question Resolution Program can help Detroit.

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DUGGAN: Hopefully, they will have a means to correct it. And if they don’t, we’re going to go to federal court, and we got a strong case.

WANG: The bureau is trying to prepare for cases from other government officials after an especially messy census. It’s proposed a new program designed for college and prison towns to challenge their census results. And later this year, it’s expected to announce how its new set of population estimates can be challenged, too. Hansi Lo Wang, NPR News.

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