Digital Exclusive: Census 2020

Digital Exclusive
Coronavirus

(WBRE/WYOU) — Every day there are more local calls for completing the national 2020 census.

It happens every 10 years and the changes between those decades mean an almost immeasurable to filling out the census.

“If we’re undercounted, we’re underpaid,” Representative Matt Cartwright (D), 8th District, said.

The deadline to complete the 2020 census is a ways out, but there’s still an urgency to get the nation counted.

“There’s only so many ways that a citizen can get involved in the government. Voting is one of them and voter turnout was higher than ever in 2020. The census is the next one. We need that census,” Luzerne County Manager David Pedri said.

The counts that are taken and only seen in full detail by the U.S. Census Bureau directly dictate how much federal aid is given to states, counties and municipalities.

“When people complain about ‘hey these roads aren’t getting fixed’ or ‘we need money for schools’, everything is based on this census. That’s how important this is,” Pedri said.

And the fact that the census only happens once every 10 years makes it a priority.

“We have to get a complete count of our residents to get the full funding that we need for the entire decade from 2021 to 2030,” Scranton Mayor Paige Cognetti said.

And from schools to road repairs, many projects and programs are heavily dependent on resources from the top down.

“It is vital for us to get the federal funding we need for transportation projects, firehouses and funding for schools. We need federal dollars to help us repair bridges in the cities and our highways. To make sure we have the infrastructure we need to get people to and from work and school,” Cognetti said.

Thousands of dollars of estimated losses for things like emergency funding and budgets across the board for every resident not counted.

“Let’s say we have 80,000 people in Scranton, but we’re only counting 70,000. We’re missing out on a huge chunk of funding we could be getting,” Cognetti said.

A look at the current numbers as of June 24th? Much of the commonwealth is behind. Luzerne County reporting just 61 percent. Neighboring Lackawanna ahead of them by a fraction of a percent. Federal money in danger of not being able to fund local businesses tacked on to a global pandemic? The Poconos trailing as it reopens.

“I think we’re in a unique time with everything that’s happened with COVID-19 and the pandemic. We’re going off census numbers that are 10 years old. Getting this new census data is really going to help not only with businesses and bouncing back and knowing what’s available, but it’s also going to help our communities bounce back with proper funding,” Pocono Mountain Visitors Bureau executive vice president and chief marketing officer Brian Bossuyt said.

If Pennsylvania underreports, the ripple effect hits elected officials vying for their people.

“I spend so much of my time on the appropriations committee trying to pull our fair share of federal tax dollars back to Pennsylvania, back to northeastern Pennsylvania,” Cartwright said.

Tax dollars that help with jobs, infrastructure and so much more. Calls in Washington for those dollars on the edge of being cut.

“The truth is that we’re likely to lose one member of Congress from Pennsylvania because other states are growing faster than Pennsylvania,” Cartwright said.

On many levels, it’s critical to be counted. A short process online at 2020census.gov or completed by mail or even phone in this age of social distancing. Volunteers also went door to door pre-COVID-19 and plan to again soon. But time is running out.

“This is something every single person can do from their house. People should still be quarantined and making sure that we’re staying indoors. It takes five minutes to fill out. You can do your civic duty,” Pedri said.

Cognetti says the impact of this census impact can’t be stressed enough.

“If I’m making plans and budgets for 75,000 people, but we have 80,000 or 85,000, I’m going to miss it. We’re not going to get the money we need to make sure that we have the right services for our residents,” Cognetti said.

There’s still time to be counted.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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