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Kansas City Nonprofits Worry 2020 Census Undercount Could Be Costly To Region

Organizations across the Kansas City region are partnering to encourage participation in the 2020 Census.
Samuel King
KCUR 89.3
Organizations across the Kansas City region are partnering to encourage participation in the 2020 Census.

To minimize the risk that an undercount could negatively affect future federal funding for the Kansas City metropolitan area, a regional effort is underway to boost participation in the 2020 Census.

The Mid-America Regional Council is coordinating a Complete Count Committee, complementing statewide committees in Kansas and Missouri.

“Many of our residents travel across that state line every day, whether it's to go to work or to go to school or to access goods or services, and they see themselves as a resident of the broader regional community,” said Marlene Nagel, community development director for MARC. “Hopefully, with the strength in numbers, we can create a stronger effort by working together.”

That effort is important, the groups, say because millions of dollars in federal funding is on the line. MARC estimates an undercount of only 1% of the region’s population would mean the potential loss of $48 million a year in federal funding.

It’s a main reason that philanthropic groups like the Health Forward Foundation and the REACH Healthcare Foundation are providing financial backing for the outreach efforts.

“We're all consumers of that census data, but also we're all committed to equity,” said Karen Dehais, learning and outreach coordinator for the Health Forward Foundation. “And we recognize that a fair census is an essential part of equitable distribution of resources, everything from congressional seats, to huge sums of federal money for things like Head Start, Medicaid, bridges and highways. So I think it’s part of our commitment to equity.”

The effort will also have a special focus on communities that have historically low response rates to the Census, such as immigrants and renters.

“It kind of is important to make sure that all the information is out there and that you're working with every single sector to make sure that you're not leaving any population out,” said Erica Andrade, chief program officer for El Centro, a Latino services nonprofit based in Kansas City, Kansas. “And not just that, but using different techniques to target different markets and different people in different communities.”

Andrade said it is too early to determine the impact of a potential citizenship question on response rates to the census, but there are concerns. The Supreme Court is expected to rule this month on whether the question will be allowed.

Census Day is officially April 1, 2020, with postcards sent out the month before. This is also the first census where people can respond online.

Samuel King is the Missouri government and politics reporter at KCUR 89.3. Follow him on Twitter: @SamuelKingNews.

Copyright 2021 KCUR 89.3. To see more, visit KCUR 89.3.

Samuel covers Missouri government and politics for KCUR. He comes to KCUR from the world of local television news, where he worked for 14 years in markets like Minneapolis, New York City and Montgomery. Samuel has extensive experience covering elections and state government in states across the country. He has won Associated Press awards for spot news coverage and investigative reporting. A native of Queens, New York, Samuel also spent time growing up in Alabama. He is a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Intergrated Marketing Communications at Northwestern University.