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A pandemic and politics are interfering with the 2020 census. Here's why that's a big deal

September 14, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

Census worker Anna Arroyo takes calls about the census. At City Hall in Reading, PA Tuesday afternoon September 1, 2020 where bilingual census workers were taking calls from the public about providing their information for the 2020 census.

If the 2020 census fails to count everyone in the US, experts warn that the consequences will be serious, widespread and long-lasting. No matter where you live in the US, many important things in your community are at stake.

The census is the basis for determining how many representatives each state gets in Congress and how an estimated 1. 5 trillion dollars in federal funding are spent.

Martha Maffei says that's something she's worried could happen again in her state -- New York -- which already lost two seats after the 2010 census.

But she says widespread fear in the community has made it tough, and the Census Bureau's recent decision to end the count a month early made it even tougher.

Even before a pandemic upended plans for the 2020 count, experts were worried a lot of children would be missed in this year's census.

The 10 largest federal programs serving children distribute $160 billion every year using data from the census, Goza says.

More than 2 million young children were missed in the 2010 census count because of a range of errors that census officials have been analyzing for years.

"That cost more than a billion a year in funding for programs because they weren't counted," Goza says.

And, Ong says, census data also could be used to determine where to set up Covid-19 testing sites or how to prioritize vaccine distribution.

Funding for public transportation also is influenced by the census, Ong says.

And if some groups, such as people of color, aren't represented in census numbers, Ong says, many neighborhoods that need money for public transportation might not get enough.

For example, some states, like Arizona, also use census population data to distribute state tax revenue for services like police, firefighters and transportation, Robbins says.

Officials in Arizona estimate that over the course of a decade, about $31,000 in combined state and federal funding is lost for every person that's missed in the census, and some $70,000 if a household isn't counted.

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