A 2020 U.S. Census undercount could have potentially large ripple effects for everything the census determines — from how congressional seats are distributed around the country to where hundreds of billions of federal dollars are spent.
On Monday, Gov. Steve Sisolak signed an executive order to establish Nevada’s Complete Count Committee, which will oversee all outreach and coordination to ensure that every Nevadan is counted in the 2020 census.
The effort will include a $5 million investment from the governor’s budget to increase education, outreach, and promotional activities for Nevada’s census. Some of the funds will go towards investing in strategies to reach hard-to-count populations and areas.
In February, the Senate Government Affairs Committee introduced Senate Bill 190, with a price tag of $5 million, meant to develop and coordinate an outreach program to increase awareness about and encourage the full participation of Nevadans in the 2020 census to ensure a complete and accurate count of all Nevadans.
“Over the next 17 months, Nevada’s committee will oversee the state’s entire complete count effort to ensure that every Nevadan is counted, every community is adequately represented in our state Legislature and in Congress, and every available dollar goes toward funding services for Nevada’s communities,” Sisolak said.
Worries about a miscount have grown since the Commerce Department, at the Justice Department’s request, approved a question on citizenship to the 2020 census — a move that local critics say could weaken participation by immigrants who fear that the government could use the information against them. Multiple states, cities and organizations are suing the Trump administration to block the change. Nevada is not one of them. The citizenship question was struck down by a federal judge and is awaiting Supreme Court review.
Jeff Hardcastle, the Nevada State Demographer, said an immediate consequence of an undercount would be the state losing out on federal funding. The exact dollar amount of federal funding for the state in 2015 was $1,611 per person.
“For every person not counted the state potentially loses out on $1,611, and that’s every year. For ten years,” Hardcastle said.
Over 16 programs in Nevada are directly tied to federal funds which are distributed every year based on headcount, including Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Section 8 housing, Title 1 grants to local schools, the National School Lunch Program, special education grants, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and low-income home energy assistance.
In Fiscal Year 2016, data from the 2010 Census resulted in over $6.2 billion appropriated to 55 federal programs in Nevada, said Sisolak, including $2.6 billion for Medicaid, $681 million for SNAP and WIC, $120 million for Title I grants to local school districts, and $357 million for highway planning and construction.
“We simply can’t afford to leave any household uncounted. Success of the census – and a complete and accurate count of every Nevadan – depends on community involvement at every level,” Sisolak said.