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Butler County's great daily newspaper

A correct count needed to benefit state residents

Despite recommendations to do so, the state didn’t allocate any funds in this year’s budget to ensure a complete count in the 2020 Census.

An inaccurate census count could result in a loss of billions of dollars in federal money that could go toward everything from Medicaid and education to funding for transportation projects.

Thankfully, the William Penn Foundation stepped in this week to award $1 million in funding for the state’s 2020 Census outreach efforts. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that this amount falls way short of the estimated $12 million required for the state’s outreach efforts as determined by the Complete Count Commission, a group appointed by Gov. Tom Wolf.

It shouldn’t be left to institutions such as the foundation to make up for funding that should have been allocated by the state for the upcoming fiscal year.

The results of the census can affect federal funding for health, human services, education, transportation and even congressional representation.

Therefore, if there’s an inaccurate count, communities across the state could receive less funding than necessary to be able to adequately provide vital services.

Pennsylvania received more than $39 billion through 55 federal spending programs as a result of data collected during the 2010 Census, according to an analysis released this week by George Washington University.

The study found that in 2015, the state lost $1,746 for every uncounted person in the 2010 Census, ranking it second among the 50 states for the highest amount lost due to an inaccurate count.

For the 2000 Census, the state allocated $300,000 to its Department of Community and Economic Development.

No funds were specifically allocated for the 2010 count, but various state agencies supported it through their operating budgets.

Other states — including 14 that didn’t lose a cent due to undercounting, according to the study — allocated funding in their budgets for the upcoming year toward census outreach.

But Pennsylvania’s $34 billion state budget signed this summer did not.

“The more accurate a state’s census count, the more equitable is its share of federal funds,” the George Washington University report noted. “A substantial undercount in any one state could lead to the diversion of funds away from that state to other states and uses.”

It’s understandable that not everything proposed for a fiscal year budget obtains funding.

But completely shortchanging the state’s census outreach was a short-sighted move.

We hope more institutions like the William Penn Foundation come forward to help make up the difference.

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