NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — Governor Ralph Northam on Tuesday announced funds will be allocated to improve the participation and representation of all communities in the 2020 Census.
During his conference at the Riverside Regional Medical Center, Northam said the resources will support education and outreach efforts by the Virginia Complete Count Commission.
“Virginia represents a true cross-section of America, and we need to make sure that all of the diverse voices in our Commonwealth are heard and counted,” said Governor Northam. “This funding will help ensure we have an accurate and complete count of Virginians in the 2020 Census and will support the vital programs that serve all of our communities.”
Northam is authorizing up to $1.5 million from the Economic Contingency Fund to help the Commonwealth develop and distribute resource materials to state agencies, local governments and nonprofit organizations to maximize public education efforts and other initiatives of the Virginia Complete Count Commission.
Last year, Governor Northam signed an executive order establishing the Virginia Complete Count Commission for the 2020 Census and tasking its members with creating an outreach program to increase awareness about the 2020 Census and encourage participation.
Data collected from the census is used to determine how the federal government distributes more than $675 billion in federal funding to states each year.
Northam said the George Washington Institute of Public Policy estimates that the Commonwealth could lose up to $2,000 in federal dollars each year—or up to $20,000 over a ten year period—for each person not counted.
During the 2010 census, over one million children under the age of five weren't counted, and Virginia was ranked the eighth state for the highest amount of undercounted children in the country.
“The census is an important civil rights issue. Every resident of Virginia, regardless of immigration status, matters and deserves to be counted,” said Monica Sarmiento, Executive Director of the Virginia Coalition on Immigration Rights. “An accurate count ensures that the correct apportionment of funds is allocated for our communities, strengthens the integrity of our representative democracy and grants the satisfaction that we are all counted as equal. VACIR commends Governor Northam for this initiative that propels the Commonwealth forward in equity and equality.”
Delegate Marcia Price, who represents parts of Newport News and Hampton in District 95, said when people don't participate in the census, the impact is felt.
"We cannot afford an undercount," said Price.
When asked about President Trump's recent efforts to include a citizenship question in the 2020 census, Northam said he opposes the idea.
"It's a concern, and I regret that that was the proposed policy coming out of Washington, but this is about being inclusive in Virginia," said Northam.
"Every person needs to be counted and nobody should be intimidated. We need to make sure that everybody is comfortable, that they feel welcome and that they're included in our count."
The official Census Day is April 1st, 2020.
Census correspondents will begin reaching out to the community in March. For the first time, people will have the option of filling out the census online in 2020.