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May 21, 2019

Pennsylvania Census commission seeks $1-per-person from state to ensure accurate count

Federal funding and Congressional seats are at stake in 2020 Census

A state commission tasked with ensuring the accuracy of the 2020 census in Pennsylvania has asked lawmakers to approve $1-per-resident in funding to support its mission.

Formed late last year by Gov. Tom Wolf, the Complete Count Commission aims to secure the ongoing federal funding and Pennsylvania's political representation in the U.S. House, which both are determined by the data collected via U.S. Census.

To achieve outreach and participation benchmarks, the commission is seeking about $12.8 million to account for the state's most recently recorded population.

Several important issues could influence the results of next year's census, particularly how the U.S. Supreme Court rules on President Donald Trump's push to add a citizen status question to the 2020 Census. Opponents argue the question is unconstitutional and would scare families away from filling out forms if there are non-citizen residents in their household.

"At a time when Pennsylvania is relying on a complete and accurate census count to determine its allocation of federal funding – funding for programs like health care and human services for Pennsylvanians in need, education, and infrastructure – including a citizenship status question can only hinder Pennsylvania’s efforts to count every person in the commonwealth on April 1, 2020,” Gov. Wolf has said of the issue.

The Supreme Court is expected to reach a decision on the citizenship status question next month.

Pennsylvania stands to lose as much as $2,093 annually for each resident who goes uncounted in the 2020 Census.

The state also currently is projected to lose one of its 20 Congressional seats as a result of reapportionment after next year's census.

A shift to digital forms means the majority of U.S. households will now receive a code by regular mail next March to access the census questionnaire. The switch has created some concern that rural and low-income communities will not be as likely to participate. Those who don't complete the form digitally, as well as those in areas with limited internet access, will receive paper forms as a follow up.

State lawmakers are expected to address the question of funding in the coming months.