Child Advocates: Underfunding of U.S. Census Likely to Hurt NM
State Must Step Up to Ensure an Accurate Head Count, Federal Funds
Albuquerque, NM—President Trump’s budget request has underfunded the U.S. Census Bureau by nearly $1 billion, according to estimates by the Census Project, a broad-based coalition of organizations working to ensure an accurate, inclusive Census 2020. This is on top of two years’ worth of significant underfunding, which has kept the Census Bureau from robust testing and preparation for Census 2020. The president has requested just $7.2 billion for the entire Census budget. The Census Project estimates that the Bureau needs $8 billion.
“The census – which is required by the U.S. Constitution – is foundational to our democracy,” said James Jimenez, executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children. “It’s used to determine voting districts for elections ranging from school boards to the U.S. House of Representatives. And, of course, it determines how much federal funding New Mexico will receive for everything from education to health care to highway maintenance. So we need to ensure that everyone is counted.”
New Mexico receives $6.2 billion in federal funding every year that is determined by the decennial census. But if just 1 percent of the state’s population is not counted, New Mexico would lose $600 million in funding over the next decade. Advocacy groups are concerned that without proper funding, the Census Bureau will be unable to get an accurate count.
Due to two years of inadequate funding, the Census Bureau has already reduced, postponed, or canceled key tests and preparations for Census 2020. The request for the 2020 Census is not only below historical trends for funding in a decennial census year but will also fail to address the many and growing challenges New Mexico faces to getting an accurate count.
“New Mexico, under the best of circumstances, is a hard-to-count state,” said Amber Wallin, deputy director of NM Voices. “Much of our population falls into what are considered hard-to-count categories. These include people living in rural areas, people who lack broadband access, Native Americans, immigrants, and more. Census 2020 poses even bigger challenges for New Mexico because it will be done primarily online and because of the potential introduction of a citizenship question that could decrease response rates.”
While the state has little influence over the federal budget, there are strategies New Mexico can employ to ensure a more accurate count.
“We need to adequately fund a state complete count committee that would work with cities, counties, tribes, and community-based organizations to educate people about the census and perform outreach activities in hard-to-count areas,” said Jimenez.
The state Senate has included $3.5 million in the budget (HB 2) for funding state and local CCCs. Advocates hope that funding will remain intact as HB 2 goes back to the state House.
“We only get one chance every ten years to get this right,” said Jimenez.