Poor census turnout could mean thousands lost in federal funding

The 2020 census is fast approaching and while many headlines are filled with debate over the constitutionality of a citizenship question, a poor census turnout could mean the loss of thousands in funding for counties and municipalities throughout the region. 

Census participation is a “civic duty,” for all county residents, according to census Partnership Specialist Michael Burger. 

He hopes to close the gap on Lycoming County’s 23.5% non-response rate. Roughly one in four people fail to participate in the census and for each missing person roughly $2,000 will be lost over the upcoming decade. 

Funding allocations depend on census numbers, Burger said. 

“We need to make sure that we have the appropriate apportionment and money passing through,” Burger said. 

Roughly $675 billion in federal funds are allocated across the country. The nation’s last census was in 2010, which recorded 305 million people in the country and Lycoming County recorded just over 116,000. Project numbers for the 2020 count is 330 million, Burger said. 

“Infrastructure funds from the federal government are based on how many people use the infrastructure.” said Commissioner Rick Mirabito, urging high participation from county residents. 

Large projects like county bridges, flood mitigation and the Susquehanna levee recertification rely on federal funds to be completed. 

The census is safe, easy and secure, Burger said. “This information is locked down. Period. Does not get out.”

The census process will employ 1,000 people in Lycoming County, according to Burger, calling it a “major undertaking for the United States.” 

The part-time positions will be paid prevailing wage, Burger said, but may vary by location. Employees will be used to help with mailings and raising awareness for the count. Applications can be made through Lycoming County CareerLink on Pine Street. 

The official census count is held on April 1, with mailings sent out in February and March. In addition, area institutions like the local colleges and county prison will be counted in February. 

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