Nearly 15% of Washington households have not yet been counted in the 2020 census, according to figures released late Friday. With just over a month before the deadline, millions of dollars in funding to the state and local communities are on the line.
It’s time for everyone — individuals, families, public and private organizations — to redouble their efforts to make sure every Washington resident is counted. To help, Congress should vote to extend the official count through the end of October. Too much is at stake to let this matter slide.
Information collected during the decennial census is used to apportion more than $1.5 trillion in federal spending to states, counties, cities and tribes, according to the George Washington Institute of Public Policy. That includes funding for transportation, education, public health, emergency preparedness, school nutrition programs and early-childhood supports.
These are precisely the types of programs that benefit populations that have traditionally been harder to accurately count, including large and low-income households, people who move frequently or who are experiencing homelessness, recent immigrants, and members of certain racial and ethnic groups.
Take Snohomish County, where the population is believed to have increased about 16% since the 2010 census. Officials there say they will lose about $2,000 in funding per year for every person who goes uncounted, said Vanesa Gutierrez, who heads Snohomish County’s Complete Count Committee.
The Lummi Nation figures it loses about $3,000 per year in federal funding for every uncounted resident, said Samantha Biasca, community engagement coordinator focusing on Native census and voter engagement for the Na’ah Illahee Fund.
Accurate census figures are essential to drawing fair and accurate congressional and legislative districts. Without a complete count, “you’ll have a lot of communities that will be shortchanged their rightful political power,” as former Gov. Gary Locke, chairman of the state Complete Count Committee, said.
Census self-responses have been troublingly low in many of Washington’s rural counties. In several, fewer than half of all households have submitted census information, according to census officials.
In a normal year, many of these households’ information would be collected during census enumerators’ follow-up canvass. But that process has been much delayed by the coronavirus. The Census Bureau has reversed course on a plan that would have extended in-person interviews past the Sept. 30 deadline. That was a mistake.
King County has joined other cities, counties and civil rights groups in a lawsuit challenging the decision. Hundreds of philanthropies, organizations, businesses and companies that rely on accurate census information have asked Congress or the Department of Commerce to extend the deadline. They should do so.
In the meantime, every Washington resident should do their part, urging friends, neighbors and families to self-report their household information.
Complete the census online at my2020census.gov or by phone: 844-330-2020 (Engish), 844-468-2020 (Spanish).