Dozens of Kansas communities are in danger of missing out on significant amounts of money from the federal government because residents haven’t completed their 2020 Census. Statewide, more than two-thirds of the population has completed the task so far, leaving 31.1% unaccounted for at this point.
As a whole, Kansas is doing better than the nationwide response rate of 64%, but there are 10 counties with less than 50% of residents completing their forms. All are rural, and they all stand to miss out on their share of billions in federal dollars that will come to Kansas over the next decade based on this year’s census.
One county’s response rate is below 40%, which could mean the loss of an estimated $50 million in federal aid over the next year. That’s the equivalent of missing out on about $1,300 for every man, woman and child in the county each year. It’s money unavailable to assist with local highway planning and construction, water and wastewater systems, health care assistance and hundreds of other programs.
Overall, a 1% undercount of Kansans would result in an estimated loss of more than $600 million in federal funding over the next decade. That’s money we pay in federal taxes going to projects in other states.
In short, the Census is about money and power. The people who complete the form get their fair share of both. If you skip it, both go elsewhere. COVID-19 has stretched our communities thin, which means ensuring you’re counted is more important than ever.
I wrote about how vital it is to stand up and be counted way back in early March, just ahead of the Census Bureau mailing forms urging people to self-respond either through the U.S. Postal Service, online at my2020census.gov or by calling 844-330-2020. Unfortunately, other events soon gripped our state and nation as the pandemic hit, pushing the counting of our population on the back burner for people.
While the pandemic certainly lowered self-response rates, it also hampered the federal effort to ensure every-one is recorded. Census workers who would have normally followed up with households that hadn’t filled out a survey in May and June are just now knocking on doors.
The federal government, fearful social distancing measures will hamper the vast data processing required by the year’s end, bumped up the response deadline to Sept. 30, shaving a full month off the original timeline.
Like just about everything else in 2020, trimming 31 days off the deadline isn’t ideal. But there’s still time to take a few minutes to respond, ensuring your town’s story is told to help get the most out of the American dream.
If you’ve already responded, you can still help by checking with friends and family to see if they’ve done so as well. If they haven’t, tell them what’s on the line and direct them to the website or phone number above.
It’s not going to complete the COVID-19 recovery overnight, but federal funding for roads, bridges, broadband internet connections and a litany of other projects won’t just help Kansas’ economic convalescence, but power us to an even brighter future. Act now while there’s still time to make your voice count.
“Insight” is a weekly column published by Kansas Farm Bureau, the state’s largest farm organization whose mission is to strengthen agriculture and the lives of Kansans through advocacy, education and service.