By: Mindy Binderman for Saporta Report
The census may only happen once every ten years, but it will impact the lives of the youngest Georgians every day.
Federal funding directed to Georgia is directly related to the Census. Georgia receives $2,300 per person each year in federal funding based on the final counts, and in total the state received over $1.6 billion in federal funding for programs that impact children. The more accurately we count everyone, the more accurately the federal government will disperse the resources we need to fund public education, nutrition, and health care programs. An undercount of just 1 percent could cost our state tens of millions of dollars each year.
The final count will determine also how strong our voice in Congress, which is especially important in a growing state like ours. In 2000, Georgia added two new Representatives, in 2010 we added one more, and we could add another after the 2020 count.
Unfortunately, Georgians have historically been undercounted. In the 2010 Census, Georgia ranked 31st in response rate, and an estimated 22 percent of the state’s population live, or 2.2 million Georgians, live in hard-to-count (HTC) areas. Many of those living in these areas are individuals of color, immigrants and non-English speakers, rural families, and families living in poverty.
Young children are especially at risk of not being counted. Georgia has more than 166,000 children aged 0-5 living in HTC areas, which is around 25% of the total population of young children in our state. Those living in densely populated areas with extended families or in temporary housing are at risk of being missed. The Census determines which areas are eligible for critical federal resources for early childhood, and when newborns and young children are missed, this means for the next 10 years—or for the better part of a childhood—the state will not receive all the funding it needs to fund important support programs for our children and their families.
For every young child we don’t count, many of the programs and services that we have set up to support them during this critical period will not be fully equipped to serve them. This can have a lasting impact on the future of our kids.
Organizations throughout the state of Georgia are working to ensure everyone is counted. With support from the Community Foundation of Atlanta, GEEARS will work to reach hard-to-count populations, including young children, in the Atlanta area. In partnership with Atlanta Public Schools (APS), GEEARS launched the Atlanta Early Education Ambassadors Program in early 2018. The Ambassadors are a group of involved parents, grandparents, teachers, and community members that lead early learning recruitment and advocacy efforts in targeted communities in Atlanta. We are now providing these Ambassadors with the training and resources they need to reach their communities to inform them of the upcoming Census.
As the Census kicks off, let’s work together to shape our future by counting every child in Georgia. Make sure to complete the Census yourself and remind your friends and neighbors about the importance of their responses. There are tools and cute videos from Sesame Street and other organizations that you can share with your employees, your social media followers, and others. Each of us can play a role and stand up and be counted.