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Arizona Needs an Accurate Census Count Now More Than Ever

The 2020 census is our once-in-a-decade opportunity to shape the next ten years for our communities and state. The Census impacts Arizonans daily, by the roads we drive on, access to health care, school funding for our children, and our state’s political representation.

Since the last Census in 2010, Arizona has experienced rapid growth, increasing our state population by 12 percent— adding an estimated 800,000 new residents.  If communities are fully counted in the 2020 Census, experts believe that based on our state’s increasing population, Arizona is on track to receive more census-guided federal funding for programs and services and gain a new congressional seat. Yet, if our state undercounts 1 percent of our population, we risk losing more than $62 million per year over the next decade. This loss would create a financial burden on our state, forcing programs and services to limit enrollments or be eliminated entirely.

Counting the dollars

The 2020 Census results will determine how more than a trillion dollars in federal funding will be allocated each year to states and communities for programs like Head Start, WIC, school lunch programs, and healthcare. An accurate decennial Census ensures that every community, as well as people and households in need, receives federal resources under Census-guided programs. In fiscal year 2017, Arizona received more than $29.3 billion in census-guided federal funding— nearly three times our general fund.

  • Medicaid and Medicare- $21,987,067,000

Medicaid and Medicare are the largest sources of federal revenue that supports the state budget. For instance, Medicaid state revenues come from a formula known as the Federal Medicaid Assistance Percentage (FMAP), which specifies the federal reimbursement rate for state spending on AHCCCS. The reimbursement from state spending works to support affordable health insurance to 1.9 million Arizona residents, nearly half of whom are children.

  • Other Programs- $7,276,455,000

Arizona received more than 7 billion dollars in fiscal year 2017 to fund school lunch programs, childcare, housing, transportation, educational services, and more. Key programs include highway planning and construction aimed at the preservation and improvement of highways and bridges. These funds are distributed based on the population across the state. Head Start and Early Head Start grants support locally run and federally funded preschool programs in Arizona, providing low-income young children with early learning opportunities. The allocation of program expansion funds is based on the share of children under 5 years of age living below the poverty line. The federal-funded fuel assistant program, known as the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), helps low-income families stay warm in the winter and cool in the summer, reducing the risk of health and safety problems. The funding formula is based on part of the state’s per capita income, as well as a calculation of how much low-income households spend on home energy costs. These are only a few examples of how billions of federal dollars are allocated in Arizona.

Government depends on Census data for decisions, policymaking, and strategic investments

Policymakers and businesses cannot make good decisions without good data. The Census Bureau serves as the leading source of quality data about the nation’s people and economy. It collects information on population, household incomes, race and ethnicity, public health, employment, and economic activity. The Census data collected and published is a crucial resource for state and local government policymaking and planning.

Arizona relies heavily on Census Bureau data to assess household costs for housing and childcare, to forecast K-12 student enrollment, and  to estimate the uninsured population. Census population counts also serve as the foundation for determining the distribution of state shared tax revenue with county and local governments and measure whether Arizona is making progress and targeting need.

An Increased focus on hard-to-count communities

Where people live is changing and who lives in Arizona is shifting. Arizona has some of the hardest-to count cities and communities in the nation. These are census tracts where almost a quarter or more households did not mail in their census questionnaire in 2010. Without targeted efforts and greater self-response, these and other neighborhoods in the state could be missed in the 2020 census.

The Latino/a community is the fastest growing demographic in Arizona and a driving force behind Arizona’s prosperity. When the data is inaccurate or biased in favor of certain demographics, undercounted communities lose out on crucial investments in their schools, public transit, healthcare, and much more. It is estimated that about 29 percent of Arizona residents (almost 2 million people) live in hard to count areas— 45% of latino children.

A long history of unjust public policy decisions has disproportionately harmed immigrants and communities of colors in Arizona, leading people of color to fall more often into one or more of the hard-to-count categories (i.e. lower-income, rent or move frequently, live in non-family households, language barriers, mixed status households, and lack of trust in government. In order to ensure that these communities don’t go underrepresented in the 2020 Census, Arizona needs to work to count every person in every household.

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The Arizona Center for Economic Progress
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Phoenix, AZ 85012

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