The census affects everyone, but what is it?

Posted at 3:02 PM, Mar 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-25 10:39:40-04

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — It happens every 10 years and it affects everything. The U.S. census determines how much federal money your state gets, what federal dollars end up in our cities, our schools, and how many congressional seats each state gets.

"The census is required by the U.S. constitution to be done every 10 years and what it does, it depicts a whole portrait of the United States of how many people live in the United States," Margaret Sanchez, regional census manager, said.

Ten years ago, Florida had the third-worst undercount in the country, losing $20 billion in federal funds, money that didn't go to your local community.

"The more people we have, the more dollar to which we are entitled, similarly with respect to representation," West Palm Beach Mayor Keith James said. "You get a certain number of representatives in Congress depending upon your population."

Each person represents about $2,000 in funding. In the 2010 census, 94,000 people were not counted in Palm Beach County and that amounts to $1.8 billion in lost funds over 10 years.

Most people don't know how important they are to the programs that help communities succeed.

"Anything from fire departments, police departments, hospitals, medicare, federal school loans programs," January Romero Reismann, vice president of community impact, community foundation for Palm Beach and Martin counties, said. "The census affects everyone and everything."

Soon you will receive a letter in the mail, explaining what to do to be counted in the 2020 census. Over the next few weeks, WPTV NewsChannel 5 is committed to explaining every step of filling out the census and what it means. To get answers to frequently asked questions about the census, click here.