Millions of County Dollars at Stake With 2020 Census Count

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By Stefanie Jackson – Bill O’ Hare, a professional demographer from Cape Charles, informed Northampton supervisors Tuesday that when the county participates in the 2020 U.S. Census, if the count misses 1 percent of the population, or 120 people, it would mean a loss of $7 million in federal funding over a 10-year period.

The U.S. Census is mandated by the U.S Constitution and has been conducted every 10 years since 1790.

It’s a “large and complex operation” and some people are unintentionally missed, O’Hare said. He spoke to raise awareness and request help in ensuring Northampton’s population is accurately enumerated next April.

Census numbers are used to calculate how much funding states and localities can receive from federal government agencies.

Virginia received about $17.7 billion in federal funds in 2016. O’Hare estimates the federal government will give state and localities about $26 trillion in the decade following the 2020 census. An accurate count will ensure Northampton County gets its fair share of those funds.

O’Hare’s credentials include more than 40 years of experience with census data and service on the 2000 and 2010 Census Advisory Committees. Currently, he is a Census Bureau consultant to the Leadership Conference on Civil & Human Rights.

The conference considers the 2020 census a civil and human rights issue because historically, racial minorities, rural and low-income families, and young children are among the groups most often missed during the census.

Preschool children, ages 0 to 4, are the most undercounted group, O’Hare said.

People who live in blended families, multi-generational households, nontraditional housing, or are homeless are also considered hard to count, he said.

O’Hare initially requested supervisors join a committee dedicated to a complete count in Northampton on the 2020 census.

Spencer Murray, the chairman of the board of supervisors, referred O’Hare to County Administrator Charlie Kolakowski for assistance.

“This is a revelation for me,” Supervisor John Coker said. He guessed up to 80 percent of Northampton residents are unaware of the effect of the census on the county’s federal funding opportunities.

“We need to make sure everybody in this county knows that they need to be counted.”