States Could Lose $1,400 Per Person Missed in 2010 Census Count


If you think all of those reminder notices asking you to send in your Census 2010 form by the suggested April 1 deadline date are overkill, think again. States could stand to lose an average of $1,400 for each person not counted. Even worse, taxpayers will end up footing the bill for the $1.5 billion it will cost to track down those who fail to send in the forms by mail.

Census data, which track the characteristics and number of people in communities across the country, help determine each state's share of the more than $400 billion in available federal funding. The aid that the states receive will then be used for such things as building and repairing highways, hospitals, senior centers and schools and providing emergency services, job training and social services over the next 10 years. Even the amount of Medicaid funding states will receive is determined by the 2010 census count.

"There is a direct relationship between census data and the amount of money that comes back to a community for every person that is counted in the census," says Census Bureau spokesperson Shelly Lowe. If fewer people in a community's population are counted, that community will receive fewer dollars for the critical services that it may need. That's why Lowe says it's vital that every citizen send the 2010 census forms back, because, "You want to make sure that every state gets their fair share [of federal aid] based on a complete count."

The Smallest and Largest Payouts

According to the Brookings Institution, based on the last census, $446.6 billion in federal funds were distributed to the 50 states and the District of Columbia in 2008. The average person was worth $1,469 in census dollars for their local community. The state of Nevada received more than $1.9 billion, or $742.42 for each person in the state -- the least amount in federal aid per person -- while the District of Columbia received more than $2.7 billion, which was the most per person at $4,656.06. The difference in the need for social services per person and the amount of federal aid allocated to the two states was determined from information collected in the census.

For taxpayers who are concerned that their money is being wasted with Census 2010 advertising and mailing campaigns, Lowe says mailing the census forms back on time can actually save taxpayers money.

"If we had 100% mail response, we'd save taxpayers $1.5 billion," says Lowe. "If they don't mail them back, we'd have to hire somewhere around 700,000 people to go out and collect data in person."

It costs about 42 cents to process the mail response, but it costs an average of $57 to send someone to a household to collect data. Census workers will begin going door-to-door in May to obtain responses for those who don't return the forms by mail.