Amount of federal funding rests on accurate census count
Lawmakers were warned Friday that counting every person in Nevada is vital to ensure the state gets its fair share of federal funding in dozens of different programs.
Secretary of State Ross Miller told the legislative committee preparing for reapportionment in the 2011 Legislature that each person missed in the count will cost the state and estimated $917 a year for the next decade.
Forms for the census, which is taken every 10 years, will start arriving in U.S. mailboxes in March.
Miller said the numbers are used to determine not only how many congressional seats Nevada qualifies for but how much money it gets in a long list of federal programs.
“This is really a competition between the states,” said Miller. “If we don’t get that money, some other state will.”
Asked by Senate Minority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, if the count includes illegal aliens, Miller said yes, that every person living in the state is counted, including illegals, prison inmates and college students in dorms.
David Byermann, manager of the census count in Nevada, said Miller’s $961,055 budget to convince residents to fill out their census forms will be paid for if it gets just 90 additional people to sign up. Over the decade, each missed person costs the state $9,170.
Byermann told lawmakers the estimated undercount in the 1990 census was 2.3 percent. He said that means some 64,400 Nevadans went uncounted, costing the state $59.1 million a year for the entire decade.
In the 2000 census, he said 47,000 people were missed by the census in this state, costing Nevada $43.2 million a year.
Byermann and Miller said the goal of their outreach efforts is to get the number of missed residents to a minimum so the state doesn’t lose out on its share of federal funding in dozens of programs.
Byermann said the census is also vital to reapportionment, or dividing the state into districts from which representatives will be elected. The count will determine whether Nevada has grown enough to qualify for its fourth seat in the House of Representatives.
Census data will be used to draw district maps for everything from the state Assembly and Senate to the U.S. Congress.
Finally, Byermann said census will provide badly needed jobs this summer as he hires some 4,800 people to collect census data from Nevadans. Saying the base pay for those workers is $14 an hour, he said, “this is a way for a lot of people to make extra money.”