In COVID-19 Uncertainty, 2020 Census Counts Even More
As the impacts of the Coronavirus, or COVID-19, continue to spread across our state and nation, so too does the uncertainty it brings to every community it touches. Businesses are shuttering, everything is canceled, unemployment is climbing at a record pace, and Congress is passing the largest disaster relief bill in our nation’s history, directing trillions of dollars to help beat back the economic impacts of this pandemic.
We are undoubtedly living in unprecedented and uncertain times, but it is during crises that we see the very best in our fellow Floridians. Over these past days and weeks, many have looked for ways to help and we have a simple suggestion – read your newspaper and complete the 2020 Census.
In this time of social distancing and cautious isolation, the census has never been easier to complete and can be answered completely online, or over the phone. It’s 10 minutes of your day that will ensure you are counted, your voice is heard, and provide critical data to guide our nation forward. There’s just no excuse not to get it done.
Data collected during the 2020 Census will drive more than $700 billion in funding to the states, billions of which will come to Florida, feed our local economies and help decide the future of our state. Businesses use census data to decide locations for new factories, offices and stores – creating more jobs. Developers use the data to decide where to build homes and new neighborhoods. Residents can use the census data to support community initiatives involving legislation, quality-of-life, and advocacy. The census impacts everyone and deciding if that impact is positive or negative for Florida is up to each of us. Every Floridian must be counted.
During the 2010 Census, Florida experienced the nation’s third-worst census participation, creating an undercount of about 1.4 million residents and costing us $20 billion in funding we were rightfully owed. Undercounts aren’t just one-year disappointments, they impact funding every year in that decade. We need to remember that the 2020 Census is not simply a snapshot of our population, but a powerful metric that determines the federal funding and elected representation of our communities for the next 10 years. So, an undercount this year can create a decade’s worth of headaches that strip needed money from local government and business. This scenario is something we can ill afford as Floridians endure what is expected to be an economic downturn caused by COVID-19.
In Florida, the ripple effects of an undercount are even more devastating. Florida is projected to be the fourth fastest growing state over the next 10 years, adding 3.3 million residents. That’s 3.3 million people that won’t be counted in Florida on April 1, 2020 but that we’ll end up paying for at some point over the next decade. So, for every person we undercount this year, we only add to the inequity we’ll be faced with down the road due to our continued growth.
Completing the census is a civic duty enshrined in the Constitution and we all should take it seriously. As our nation comes together to respond to the impacts of COVID-19, we can all take an important first step in the American recovery by completing the 2020 Census and do so from the comfort of our homes.
Dominic Calabro is Florida TaxWatch President and CEO. For 40 years, Florida TaxWatch has served as the trusted eyes and ears of Florida’s taxpayers, working as an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit government watchdog and taxpayer research institute.
Jim Fogler is Florida Press Association President and CEO. He also serves as President and CEO of Intersect Media Solutions and spent more than 30 years with Gannett Co.
This op-ed may be republished in FPA member newspapers.