Expert: Stopping the census count now could mean less federal money for NC

North Carolina news

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — The Trump Administration’s push to stop the counting for this year’s census soon could mean less money for North Carolina over the next decade if the state’s population is undercounted, an expert told CBS 17 News.

“The real risk is that we are not going to get our fair share of federal funds that we pay in taxes back to the state for the programs that our citizens need,” Rebecca Tippett, director of the Carolina Demography Center, said Thursday.

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The administration filed an emergency request with the Supreme Court after a federal appeals court upheld a lower court order allowing the count to continue through the end of this month. 

The administration says not allowing the count to end sooner would force the Census Bureau to miss its deadline of Dec. 31 to turn in the final count that is used to determine how many seats in Congress each state receives.

North Carolina remains likely to pick up another seat in the House of Representatives — its 14th — and the additional electoral vote that comes with it.

But the state is at risk of being undercounted, Tippett said. Only 63 percent of households in the state have self-responded to the census — ranking in the bottom third nationally, and behind its nearly 65 percent rate in the 2010 census.

Self-responses are “the most complete and accurate information we have,” Tippett said. Households that do not respond that way are counted via non-response follow-ups, which tend to be less complete and less accurate, she said.

“So if the counting ends soon, it means that we’ll still be far below what we were in 2010 for our self-response rate,” Tippett said.

And an undercount could mean a significant financial hit for the state.

North Carolina’s slice of the $1.5 trillion in federal funding based on the 2010 census was about $44 billion, spread over more than 300 programs ranging from Medicaid to highways to programs for children younger than 5 years old.

NC Child, a group that advocates for children across the state, estimates that every additional 1 percent of state residents that are undercounted results in a loss of $94 million.

Some demographic groups historically have been undercounted, including Blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans. And young children are at the highest risk of being undercounted, Tippett said.

“And a lot of programs targeted toward that age — really important Head Start programs, woman-infant-child nutrition programs, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs — all of those are going to be in part derived from federal programs,” she said. “And an undercount in the census could jeopardize us having enough money to serve the population in need in North Carolina for the next decade.”

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