KANSAS CITY, Mo. — If more Kansas City, Missouri, residents do not complete the 2020 U.S. Census, community leaders fear the region could lose millions of federal dollars.
Marlene Nagel, community development director for the Mid-America Regional Council, said more than $600 billion annually in federal funds is distributed to states and communities based on Census data.
"For every person we miss, we risk losing millions of dollars over the next decade,” Nagel said.
The federal government recently moved the Census deadline up by one month.
In Jackson County, only 61.3% of residents completed the Census, down 5.1% from the response rate in 2010, according to data from Aug. 5. Some neighborhoods in the county had less than a 30% reporting rate.
“This year has brought many, many challenges," said Andres Chaurand, a community organizer with the Guadalupe Centers, "and it’s sad to see we won’t see as high of numbers as we did during the last Census."
Chaurand has been working to “bridge the gap” between residents and the U.S. Census Bureau. He said this year there have been several challenges preventing people from inputting their information.
A distrust in government, he said, is contributing to lower participation in Hispanic and minority communities.
“The second (the Census) asks for your phone number or how many people are living in your household, or what your ethnic background is, it’s an automatic red flag for them,” Chaurand said.
COVID-19 has not helped the situation. Before stay-at-home orders were issued in Kansas and Missouri, the Guadalupe Centers had planned to host community drives to dispel misinformation and get residents to complete the Census. They’ve since had to move online.
“We had to scramble and say, 'How can we do this? What can we do?,'” Chaurand said.
Information collected by the U.S. Census determines representation in Congress and state legislatures, as well as how boundaries are drawn in local elections. Federal funds are allocated based on that information to help pay for free and reduced lunches, transportation, housing, health care and other needs.
“What the Census Bureau will likely do is they will look at other data sets and they will try and make adjustments," Nagel said, "not only for our community but for others. For every adjustment they make, they may fail to adequately adjust enough to cover the lack of response."
She also said that having one more month to talk to residents and encourage them to complete the Census likely would have helped.
“The more time we can give people to get their kids back to school, be able to get back to work and to pay attention to the Census, the more time we have to promote it, it would have been helpful to have more time to promote it,” Nagel said.
Those who have not completed the 2020 U.S. Census, can do so online.