Rhode Island officials say the 2020 census count is critical

April 2, 2019

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Rhode Island officials said at a rally Tuesday it’s critical all residents are counted during the 2020 census, so the state doesn’t lose federal funding or one of its two U.S. House seats.

The Rhode Island Complete Count Committee held the event at the State House because counting for the census begins in one year. Attendees held signs that said “count me in.” Many state and local officials attended.

Central Falls Mayor James Diossa and the state’s health director, Nicole Alexander-Scott, lead the committee. They said everyone is impacted by the census results. Alexander-Scott said there’s a lot of work to do, but the attendance at the rally shows the state is up to the task.

Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea said “it’s more than just a headcount” and everyone benefits from a complete, accurate count.

Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo established the committee in December to ensure the census doesn’t undercount segments of the population. She recommended $150,000 be allocated for its outreach efforts. The committee is asking the General Assembly to provide $500,000.

An incomplete or inaccurate count would affect over $3 billion in annual federal funding, about one-third of the state budget, according to the committee. The funding supports state and local education, housing and health care programs.

Rhode Island could lose a House seat if its population growth is slower than growth in other states. According to U.S. Census Bureau estimates, Rhode Island’s population was 1,057,315 for 2018. The state is projected to lose a seat if the estimation holds in the census.

Several of the state’s general officers and state lawmakers said everyone must respond to the census, given the high stakes.

“We have too much to lose,” said Democratic Rep. Anastasia Williams, of Providence. “But I’m confident these dire scenarios can be avoided if we all work together.”

Nearly a quarter of residents are considered “hard to count” by the Census Bureau’s definition, which includes minorities, young children, recent immigrants and low-income people.

The Rhode Island Foundation announced last week that it has committed $250,000 for outreach and education efforts to ensure every Rhode Island resident is counted, bringing its total investment in census outreach to about $350,000.