By Abby Hamrick, Intern
The first step in understanding and addressing the needs of North Carolina children is knowing basic facts about where they live and how old they are; their health, economic and educational circumstances; and how many there are. The census helps us understand these factors and plays a crucial role in determining the allocation of $16.3 billion of federal resources to our state. That’s why getting an accurate census count is essential to the well-being of our state’s children.
Unfortunately, Congress is planning to fund census work in the 2018 budget at $1.5 billion, which accounts for only 83 percent of what is needed to effectively prepare for the 2020 Census.
Historically, the Census Bureau has taken the few years before the census to run tests that check for hiccups and ensure accuracy when the real census is conducted. Because of underfunding, the Bureau has already had to cut testing projects in West Virginia and Washington state. Additionally, residents will have the opportunity to complete the 2020 Census online, which has never been done before.
Earlier this year, NC Rep. Mark Meadows (NC-11), chair of the Government Oversight Subcommittee, said,“the Bureau is at risk for gathering incomplete census data, and the potential for information security breaches.” Unlike other years, funding for the Census hasn’t increased as the Census year has approached.
Getting the census wrong has an enormous impact on our children and our state. It ensures that federal resources are directed strategically and that the needs of children in rural and other communities are appropriately represented in the statehouse and in Congress. Regrettably, children ages 0-4 are at risk of being undercounted in the census. The Census Bureau estimates that over 25,000 young children in North Carolina were not counted in the 2010 census, the 8th highest amount in the country. When young children are left out of the census it means fewer resources for critical programs that promote healthy growth and development during early childhood, like Medicaid, SNAP, Title I, Special Education Grants, the School Lunch Program, CHIP, Head Start, WIC, foster care, and child care subsidies.
As Congress begins to debate the federal budget in the coming days, it is critical to the well being of children and families – and states – that our elected officials have a hearty discussion on the importance and implications of the census. The accuracy of the count is the only way, until 2030, that our nation will be able to fairly allocate and steward North Carolinian tax dollars back into our state where they can support our children, families, and communities.