The U.S. Constitution requires that a census of the population must be conducted every 10 years. The census is a count of every individual living in the United States. Information collected provides a breakdown of the gender, race, ethnic and socioeconomic makeup of the nation.
The information is used to accurately distribute billions of dollars in federal funds and to ensure fair federal representation. Quite frankly, the results of the 2020 census will literally shape New Jersey’s future for the next decade.
The need for an accurate count of the residents in New Jersey has never been greater. There are two important things that New Jersey could lose if our state is undercounted during the 2020 census: federal funding and elected representative power.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, it was estimated that between 31,000 and 180,000 people were missed in New Jersey during the 2010 census due to hard-to-reach areas in our cities. Undoubtedly, this led to New Jersey losing a congressional seat and much-needed federal funds for a decade.
For instance, after the 2010 census, New Jersey went from having 13 congressional representatives to having only 12 men and women advocate for our needs in the House of Representatives. Our delegation regularly meets in Washington to make sure it can support all New Jerseyans. However, this may be at risk if our population is undercounted. New Jersey’s power in Washington should not be diminished, which is why we need to have an accurate population count.
Total participation is key to ensuring that New Jersey not only retains, or increases, our congressional districts, but also that our residents receive their fair share of federal aid. This is especially important when you consider that New Jersey is historically at the top of the list of states that send more money to Washington than we get back in federal spending. We simply cannot afford to lose this money.
Furthermore, undercounting our population will severely threaten the $22 billion in funding New Jersey receives from the federal government. More specifically, here in Burlington County, we received more than $3.86 billion last year for our 445,000 residents. To put it less ambiguously, this is funding that supports health care, education, transportation, veterans, job training, children, housing and agriculture.
There are dozens of federal programs whose funding depends on an accurate census count. Our most vulnerable populations could be at risk of losing access to Medicaid, Medicare, SNAP food assistance and SCHIP, the children’s health insurance program. College students could miss out on Pell Grants and federal student loans. Funding to bolster our transportation infrastructure could be at risk. Children in our public schools could lose technical training or be forced to forgo proper nutrition through breakfast and lunch programs. Workers could lose out on important job training programs.
We cannot take for granted the important programs and services the federal government provides for us. We will need the help of every person in the state to mobilize neighbors, family members and friends in understanding the importance of an accurate census count. It is equally important that we educate ourselves about the census. Census.gov provides a sample copy so when we fill out the real form, we know what to expect.
The more people we count in this state, the more likely we will be able to ensure New Jersey keeps its federal funding and representation. The onus is on all of us to make sure every single person in New Jersey is counted in the 2020 census.