After state lawmakers rejected his funding request toward the state’s census efforts, Gov. Ralph Northam announced Tuesday he plans to tap the state’s economic emergency coffers to fund that work.
Northam said during an event in Newport News that he plans to authorize $1.5 million from the state Economic Contingency Fund to help the state promote participation in the 2020 census, particularly among communities with historically low participation.
“Virginia represents a true cross-section of America, and we need to make sure that all of the diverse voices in our commonwealth are heard and counted,” Northam said in a statement.
“This funding will help ensure we have an accurate and complete count of Virginians in the 2020 census and will support the vital programs that serve all of our communities.”
The census count will take place April 1 — when the federal Census Bureau is hoping to count “everyone once, only once, and in the right place,” in what will be the country’s largest domestic mobilization effort.
The newly announced funding will aid the work of the Virginia Complete Count Commission, which Northam established last year to address the state’s participation challenges and inform the public about changes to the census.
For example, all U.S. residents will now be able to fill out their census form online through desktop and mobile devices, with the option of mailing a physical form or responding by phone.
Still, officials and advocates expect participation to be a challenge, particularly among groups with historically low participation including people of color, immigrants, children under 5, renters and people living in crowded households.
For state governments, every uncounted resident represents roughly $20,000 over a decade in missed funding. The results of the census will also impact political boundaries for Virginia’s General Assembly and the U.S. House, as lawmakers will redraw district lines in 2021 using 2020 population estimates.