The 2020 census population count doesn't get underway for another year, but some Minnesota lawmakers say the state needs to start work now to preserve needed federal funding and representation in Congress.
Gov. Tim Walz held a rally at the Capitol on Monday, starting the countdown to Census day on April 1, 2020 to call on lawmakers to pump funding into the once-in-a decade population count in Minnesota. Walz is proposing $1.6 million in one-time funding for outreach through the state demographer's office.
DFL Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan noted the federal government uses the count to determine how much money should flow into Minnesota each year. Currently the state gets $15 billion in federal funding annually.
"Let me put it into perspective: Even a single missed person in the census could mean a forfeited $28,000 in federal funding over the course of 10 years," Flanagan told the crowd. "Those are real dollars that affect real communities across the state."
A bill in the DFL-controlled House goes further, proposing $2.5 million for those efforts. Rep. Jamie Long, DFL-Minneapolis, said that's a small investment for what it could leverage: billions in federal funding, not to mention potentially an entire representative in Congress.
Minnesota is at risk of losing one of its eight seats in Congress if it has lost population compared to other states.
The state nearly lost a seat a decade ago during the last count, but it squeaked by with enough people. This time, Minnesota is ranked 437, behind Montana and California for the final spot in the 435-seat U.S. House of Representatives.
"It could be as few as 10,000 people between where we are at now and keeping that last spot," Long said. "Ten thousand people is not very many, and if we can count a few thousand more people with those state investments it's going to be worth it."
Long said some of the populations that are typically under-counted include people who are transient or living in apartments, Minnesotans in the far-flung regions of the state that are harder to access for census workers, tribal communities and college students.
Another one the census misses: babies. "People leave babies off their forms all the time," Long said. "It's kind of all over the map, but we know who they are and we know the strategies we can use to make sure they are counted."