Original Article: https://www.mypanhandle.com/news/low-census-response-threatens-federal-funding/

PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — As of Wednesday, Bay County census responses remain lower than the state average; now, county leaders are urging residents to complete the census before time runs out.

The U.S. Census Bureau recently said that it will be ending counting efforts earlier than previously scheduled, from October 31st to September 30th.

“There’s so much money that’s tied to federal funding that they tie it to population,” said Bay County Commissioner Robert Carroll. “They only do this every ten years so therefore if we’re not counted right then we’re going to be basically punished for ten years so it’s very important that everyone takes the time.”

On Wednesday, Bay County had a 44 percent response rate, which is about 15 percent less than the state average and Bay County’s own response in the 2010 census.

“We would really love these numbers to get higher,” said Carroll.

According to “Florida Counts Census 2020,” an organization working to improve the state’s census count, billions of dollars hang in the balance, as population and demographics information often determines allocation of funds to state and local governments.

The organization reports that for every person not counted, Florida’s state and local governments lose about $15 thousand each year. For a household of four, that’s $600 thousand over a ten year period.

“The services that we access all the time around us are set by the census and they’re set for ten years,” said Sabeen Perwaiz, a Florida Counts member.

Some of those services include federal student aid like Pell grants, the National School Lunch Program, and highway planning and construction projects through the Department of Transportation.

“U.S. Census data is used by Congress and our partners at USDOT to determine funding formulas for distribution of transportations resources to states and our transportation partners,” said Alecia Collins, the Deputy Communications Director with FDOT. “With the continual growth we see here in Florida, it is critical that these resource allocations accurately reflect the true transportation needs of a region.”

Carroll said it’s crucial for residents to complete the census as soon as possible to ensure everyone is counted.

“Just can’t stress that enough,” he said. “Please take the time to fill out the form.”

To learn more or to complete the census online, click here.

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