A Year Out From 2020 U.S. Census, Bill Looks To Create 'Complete Count Committee'

Apr 1, 2019

Democratic State Senator Bobby Powell, center, speaks at a press conference regarding the 2020 U.S. Census on Monday. He was joined by fellow Democrats Representative Susan Valdes, left, and Senator Oscar Braynon, right.
Credit Ryan Dailey / WFSU-FM

A year out from the 2020 U.S. Census, some Florida Democratic lawmakers are calling for a question concerning citizenship to be scrubbed from the census form. And one bill waiting for a committee hearing looks to push for an accurate count.

Democratic Senator Bobby Powell says a question regarding the respondents’ citizenship will cause many to not participate.

“For far too many of our native and non-native people, this question will discourage them from participating in the census,” Powell said at a press conference Monday.

Powell says he’s concerned about the potential for a miscount.

“As we await the Supreme Court’s ruling on the constitutionality of including a question about citizenship on the census – I wish to share my opinion – my strong desire that this language be omitted from the questionnaire,” Powell said.

To push for an accurate 2020 count, Powell is pushing a bill that would create the Florida Complete Count Committee made up of state and local government officials.

“This committee would be responsible for coordinating available resources in developing outreach strategies to encourage full participation in the census process,” Powell said.

The proposed committee would include the majority and minority leaders of both state government chambers. It also calls for representatives from organizations like the state Association of Counties and District School Superintendents. Powell adds outreach efforts would include a multi-lingual strategy and one geared toward reaching the elderly as he says the process relies more heavily on computer and telephone inputs.

Representative Susan Valdes says it’s not just immigrants she worries may be impacted.

“With current proposed changes to the census, communities of color, urban and rural low-income households, immigrants and young children are all at risk of being missed by the census in the year 2020,” Valdes said.

The Hillsborough County Democrat says that’s significant because of funding dispersal guided by census data.

“Federal agencies use the census data to allocate billions of dollars at the state and local levels for vital community services such as hospitals, fire departments, schools, roads, job training centers, senior centers, and police departments,” Valdes said.

Senator Audrey Gibson used the example of public education dollars to illustrate how programs and grants are influenced by the census when it comes to funding.

“Census data influences the distribution of billions of dollars – almost $16 billion – for Title 1 grants that help local educational agencies serve more than 24 million students in low-income families and communities,” Gibson said. “More than $12 billion for special education grants to states, along with funds from the National School Lunch Program.”

And, Gibson says, census data has a similar impact on jobs in the state.

“Company executives use census data to identify communities where they might build a factory, office building, or open new stores,” Gibson said. “And new stores in our communities are extremely important.”

Monday was 2020 Census Day, marking exactly one year until the coming census is conducted. Powell’s bill is currently waiting to be heard by the Senate’s Ethics and Elections Committee.