$13 Billion and a U.S. House Seat Ride on Participation in This Year’s Census

Gov. Kay Ivey and state census officials say participation by Alabamians in this year’s census “will make or break” the state.

Poor census participation by state residents could result in the state losing a member of the U.S. House and about $13 billion in federal health care and education funds.

Anyone living in Alabama on Friday is being asked to complete the census. For the first time, the census can be completed online, as well as by phone or mail.

Letters encouraging residents to complete the census are now being mailed to Alabamians.

Kenneth Boswell, director of the Alabama Department of Community Affairs, is spearheading the census in Alabama. Boswell and Ivey pointed out that federal funding disbursements are tied to census data.

“It is the most important census the state has ever seen,” Boswell said.


A recent study by George Washington University found the federal government returned $1,600 for every Alabamian counted in the 2015 census, according to census.alabama.gov.

The study also found that more than $13 billion went to 55 programs in which funding levels are derived from census data.

The lion’s share of the state’s federal money from the 2015 census data went to Medicaid, $3.9 billion; Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) $1.2 billion; and Medicare Part B, $1.1 billion. Other funds included highway planning and construction, $797 million; Pell grants and loans, $417 million; and Title I education agencies, $230 million.

Slow Population Growth = Less Representation

The 2020 census count also will determine whether Alabama loses one of its seven seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. Slow population growth in the state is responsible for the representation dilemma.

The overall census numbers for the country will be used to determine the number of congressional districts in each state.

“If we don’t have that representation or those seats at the table, then our advocacy lessens and so does everything else,” Boswell said.

Last December, the Census Bureau released population estimates that showed 10 states set to lose a congressional district each: Alabama, California, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and West Virginia.

Texas and Florida are expected to make the most gains in representation, with three more House members for Texas and two for Florida. Other states expected to gain at least one district are Arizona, Colorado, Montana, North Carolina and Oregon.

State officials say an improvement in the 2020 census numbers also could mean additional retail, restaurant and business growth.

Only 72 percent of Alabamians responded to the 2010 census with most lower rates in West Alabama and urban areas.

“If we perform around that same level in 2020, we are projected to lose one (House) seat,” said Mike Presley, state census spokesman. “If we perform at a much poorer level, there exists the possibility of losing two seats.”

Pushing for Returns

Notices being mailed out this week will include a census ID number that matches addresses. People filing online are asked to use the ID number, but those filling out the census questionnaire before they receive the ID number still will be counted.

Census workers will not begin going door-to-door until May, but the spread of the new coronavirus could result in workers just dropping off the forms, according to the U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross whose department oversees the Census Bureau.

“We will just have to play it by ear,” Ross told a House subcommittee earlier this week.

Every community college in the state has a designated census contact to spread awareness and push for census completions in the communities they serve. To connect with a college about the 2020 census, visit accs.edu/census.

For more information, visit census.alabama.gov. You can also sign up to receive reminders and information on the Alabama 2020 census by texting COUNT or CENSO to 1-205-304-5505.