Dozens of Iowa communities have launched what are called Complete Count Committees. Alex Hassel leads the panel in Des Moines and notes the population count, taken once every decade, is used to set funding for a host of federal programs.
“Medicaid and SNAP and Section 8 housing vouchers, National School Lunch Program,” Hassel says, “these programs are critical for our communities, so we need an accurate count to make sure that those funding levels reflect the needs of our community.”
At least 50 such groups are reaching out to Iowa communities that were undercounted in 2010, especially in neighborhoods where English is not the residents’ primary language. Hassel says the federal government divides more than $675 billion in funding based on population. An accurate count ensures Iowa receives its fair share. When people are missed by the census, Hassel says Iowa gets a smaller share of funding for programs like Medicaid and other health programs.
Hassel says, “Even a one-percent undercount in 2020 will lead to a $36 million hit to the state of Iowa for the programs that use that Federal Medical Assistance Percentage.” The committees are working to tell residents about the 2020 Census, how to fill out the form and why it matters. The Census Bureau is still hiring workers who will finish the count by going door-to-door starting in May. In Polk County, the hourly wage is over $22 an hour, set in an effort to fill jobs.
(By Grant Gerlock, Iowa Public Radio)