2020 Census Door Knockers

A census taker knocks on the door of a residence Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020, in Winter Park, Fla.

(The Center Square) – With two weeks before counting is scheduled to end for the 2020 census, the U.S. Census Bureau reports Florida ranks 43rd in the nation in response rate, with a projected 13 percent – or about 2.5 million – of the state’s estimated 22 million residents not tallied.

At risk for Florida in a census undercount is up to $200 million a year in federal population-based funding and an outside shot at qualifying for a third additional congressional seat.

State officials, led by Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, are doubling down on efforts to encourage participation in the census before the Sept. 30 deadline.

“Participating in the 2020 census is vital to supporting Florida’s future,” Patronis said Tuesday. “Not only does the data collected by the census serve as the basis for fair political representation, it also plays a major role in determining the amount of funding that state governments and local communities receive from the federal government for the next decade.”

Noting Florida ranks 43rd of the 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico with an 87.4 percent response rate, Patronis said “many Florida Panhandle communities (are) lagging in response rate compared to central and south Florida counties.”

Senate Majority Leader Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, in a widely published op-ed Wednesday, called on Floridians to fill out U.S. census mailers or complete the form on the bureau’s my2020Census.gov website.

“If you’re visited by a census taker, take the time to answer their questions,” Passidomo wrote. “Without a full picture of our state’s population, Florida could lose resources, funding and representation. For each Floridian that goes uncounted, Florida’s state and local budgets will lose an estimated $15,000 per person per year.”

States, counties, cities and neighborhoods with undercounts face repercussions in not receiving their “share” of $700 billion in annual federal funding – a projected $1.5 trillion through 2030 – to be distributed by census-based formulas.

An estimated 200,670-person undercount in the 2000 census cost Florida about $225 million annually, or more than $2.5 billion over the decade, according to the bureau.

An estimated 1.4 million undercount in Florida’s 2010 Census – the nation’s third highest – cost the state $20 billion in federal allocations this decade, the bureau estimated.

According to the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform, Florida could lose $188.8 million annually in federal health care, job training and education funding if there is a 1 percent undercount in the 2020 census.

An Urban Institute study predicted Florida’s Hispanic and Black populations would be undercounted and its white population overcounted. It outlined three scenarios, with anywhere from 97,000 to 320,000 people – roughly the population of Orlando – going uncounted.

Florida was slow to gear up for the census. After maintaining for months the headcount was best left to the bureau and more than 120 local committees, Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nunez in January to lead a 19-member Florida Complete Count Committee.

Unlike California, which has spent nearly $200 million preparing for the census – New York City $40 million; Illinois $29 million – Florida did not allocate money for the census.

The bureau estimated in January Florida’s population at 21.48 million, which means the state is assured of adding two members to its 27-member congressional delegation. Election Data Services, however, projects Florida is about 172,000 people away from adding third new congressional district.

“It is vital that we have the entire state participate, and I’m urging all Floridians to take just a few minutes and visit to make sure you and your family are counted and help ensure a bright future for Florida,” Patronis said.