Miami-Dade needs an accurate census count | Editorial

Watch the U.S. Census Bureau’s ‘Shape Your Future’ video

Watch a promotional video created by the U.S. Census Bureau in advance of the 2020 Census.
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Watch a promotional video created by the U.S. Census Bureau in advance of the 2020 Census.

As the Supreme Court takes on the question Tuesday of whether the Trump administration can add a citizenship question to the 2020 census form, Miami-Dade officials are hoping for a favorable ruling.

They are right to be concerned. Our community’s financial health hangs in the balance.

The citizenship question on the census form may rob us. To get the proper funding Miami-Dade deserves, every resident must be counted, a sometimes sensitive proposition in communities with so many immigrants and refugees.

Already, officials with the Census Bureau have said including the citizenship question could scare away 5.8 percent of households that include someone who isn’t a citizen.

The number is likely higher in communities like ours, and in these times of immigration turmoil.

For our sake, we hope the justices side with three lower courts that have ruled against such an addition, which would certainly result in many immigrants not filling out the forms.

Miami-Dade leaders are going out of their way in sending a strong message urging residents not to let fear of a government survey stop them from participating in the 2020 Census.

“One of the messages we’re going to be driving now for the next year and a half is the importance of being counted,” said Miami-Dade Commissioner Esteban “Steve” Bovo Jr., chairman of a county task force promoting census participation. “If you care about traffic, if you care about healthcare, education. If you care about housing, it is important we communicate to every segment of our population and allow them to be counted.”

Generally speaking: the more people we have, the more money we get. But they have to be counted.

The country’s once-a-decade population count is used by Washington to dictate many things, most notably federal spending and representation in Congress. The U.S. Constitution requires the government to count everyone, including infants, children and adults, living in the United States every 10 years.

Big bucks hang in the balance. According to the U.S. Census Bureau statistics from 2017, Florida receives $29.3 billion in federal funds annually to programs such as Head Start, highway planning and construction, Section 8 housing, Medicaid and Medicare, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Pell grants for college and national school lunch programs.

The Census count also helps allocate funds and grants to states, counties and municipalities.

Bovo said at a recent news conference that “in every neighborhood and corner of our county, we all must become agents to raise public awareness about how Census participation affects the county’s future prosperity.”

The Supreme Court must acknowledge and act upon the threat of the chilling effect that allowing this citizenship question on the Census form will have not just in Florida, but across the United States.

In 1840, males outnumbered females 8.68 million to 8.38 million in the United States. By 1950, there were more females than males for the first time, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.