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Az could lose more than $600M if Census response doesn’t improve

While Arizona ranks at the bottom of 2020 Census response, a new congressional report estimates the state would lose more than $600 million in federal funding over the next decade if just 1% of the population isn't counted.

On average, about 89% of U.S. households have responded to the 2020 census, which was launched nationally in mid March when the pandemic was grappling the country. In Arizona, about 82% of the state's residents have responded, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The report was released by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform and Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.

"Each person who gets counted in the 2020 Census brings in about $887 per year in funding for Medicaid, CHIP [Children's Health Insurance Program], and foster care assistance programs" in Arizona, the report said.

It estimates that a 1% undercount in Arizona would mean:

  • A more than $55 million loss in federal funding for healthcare programs like Medicaid, CHIP and foster-care support.
  • The state's schools could lose nearly $3.5 million in federal funding.
  • The state could lose more than $1.7 million in federal funding for job programs.

Certain groups are at higher risk of being undercounted, including children under 5, and Black, Latino and Native residents.

"The 2010 Census undercounted African Americans by approximately 2.1%, Hispanics by 1.5%, American Indians and Native Alaskans living on reservations by 4.9%, and Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders by 1.3%," the report states. "Approximately 4.6% of children under the age of 5 were uncounted in 2010."

Over the weekend, a federal judge ordered the government to continue its 2020 enumeration efforts and delay its planned wind down of the 2020 census by the end of September, NPR reported.

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The lawsuit claims the Sept. 30 deadline, which was abruptly announced and is a month earlier than the previous deadline, "threatens a massive undercount of the country's communities of color and the municipalities, cities, counties, and states where they live..

"Under these circumstances, the Bureau's new plan to rush the 2020 Census violates, among other things, the federal government's legal obligations to secure an accurate count and statutory prohibitions on arbitrary, capricious, and pretextual federal government action," the lawsuit states.

The Navajo Nation, the country's largest sovereign Native territory which expands across Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, and the Gila River Indian Community in Maricopa and Pinal counties are also plaintiffs in the lawsuit. Both communities rely on in-person interactions with census enumerators, the complaint states. 

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 10% of the homes in the Gila River Indian Community have responded to the 2020 census online, by mail or phone. In the Navajo Nation, the 2020 census self-response rate is 19%. The national average self-response rate is 66%, census figures show.

This report was first published by the Arizona Mirror.

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