Media Contact: Kelly Allen; 304-612-4180
Charleston, WV – Many West Virginia residents are at risk of not being counted in the 2020 census due to inadequate funding and fears about participating following Trump’s failed citizenship question, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. To improve participation and help ensure a complete census count, West Virginia should supplement federal funding and form a complete count commission.
An undercount of West Virginia’s residents could reinforce barriers to opportunity by denying communities accurate political representation; local, state, and federal funds; and private-sector investments – all of which are informed by census data. In 2016, the federal government distributed over $900 billion to states and the District of Columbia through 325 census-guided programs and projects.
“At risk in West Virginia is over $6 billion annually in federal funds guided by Census data and one of our three Congressional seats,” said Kelly Allen, the WV Center on Budget and Policy’s Director of Policy Engagement.
Underfunding and funding delays over the last decade forced the Census Bureau to cancel key tests and left it struggling to catch up. Threatening the census further, the Trump administration’s failed citizenship question is expected to leave many immigrants too afraid to participate.
To respond to these threats, West Virginia should establish a complete count commission and supplement the Census Bureau’s funding for outreach. Thirty-seven states and the District of Columbia have established commissions, which help amplify the importance of census participation to state residents. And sixteen states have allocated supplemental funding.
“West Virginia is an outlier in our lack of statewide preparedness for the 2020 Census. We also face unique challenges here in West Virginia that could make our census count more difficult, including our rural landscape and lack of broadband connectivity,” continued Allen.
Over 440,000 of our state’s residents live in Census tracts that are among the hardest to count in the country. Additionally, this is the first time that residents will be encouraged to fill out the Census online. That is why it is so important for state outreach funding to be allocated to hard-to-count areas to ensure that residents in those communities are made aware of the importance of the Census.