Governor Ralph Northam today announced that he has identified state resources to support education and outreach efforts by the Virginia Complete Count Commission to improve the participation and representation of all communities in the 2020 Census. The governor made the announcement at the Riverside Regional Medical Center, where the Northam administration also held a community townhall to discuss questions about the upcoming census.
“Virginia represents a true cross-section of America, and we need to make sure that all of the diverse voices in our Commonwealth are heard and counted,” said Northam. “This funding will help ensure we have an accurate and complete count of Virginians in the 2020 Census and will support the vital programs that serve all of our communities.”
Northam is authorizing up to $1.5 million from the Economic Contingency Fund to help the Commonwealth develop and distribute resource materials to state agencies, local governments, and nonprofit organizations to maximize public education efforts and other initiatives of the Virginia Complete Count Commission. Last year, Northam signed an executive order establishing the Virginia Complete Count Commission for the 2020 Census and tasking its members with creating an outreach program to increase awareness about the 2020 Census and encourage participation.
“Ensuring that every Virginian is counted is a fundamental, constitutional responsibility,” said Secretary of the Commonwealth Kelly Thomasson. “This will take a tremendous team effort, with our elected leaders and community stakeholders working together in every community in the Commonwealth to make sure that we receive equitable funding for priorities such as transportation, education, and housing.”
$675 billion at stake
Census data is used to determine how the federal government distributes more than $675 billion in federal funding to states each year. The George Washington Institute of Public Policy estimates that the Commonwealth could lose up to $2,000 in federal dollars each year—or up to $20,000 over a ten year period—for each person not counted. In 2016, Virginia received $17.7 billion through 55 federal programs because of data from the 2010 Census, including $4.5 billion for Medicaid and nearly $1.2 billion for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
“It is critical that we make sure that every Virginian is accurately counted in the 2020 census,” said Congressman Bobby Scott (D-VA-03). “Failure to do so could impact our congressional representation and diminish the federal resources that our local communities receive over the next decade. I commend the Governor and his administration for identifying additional state resources to support state outreach efforts for the 2020 census to ensure maximum participation by Virginians.”
Over one million children under the age of five weren’t counted in the 2010 Census, and Virginia was ranked the eighth state for the highest amount of undercounted children in the country.
“We are striving for an accurate count of ALL children, especially those ages zero through four who are most likely to be missed,” said Margaret Nimmo Holland, Executive Director of Voices for Virginia’s Children. “The Commonwealth receives billions in federal funding for a variety of programs that are vital to getting young children off to a strong start, such as nutrition programs, health insurance, and Head Start. Counting each child in the 2020 Census will give us a better chance of meeting our children’s health and educational needs for the next decade.”