Body Count

      The big 10-year census does not happen automatically. 

     The census is a hugely complicated enterprise, and the 2020 count promises to be more difficult than ever because of several factors, including lack of funds and the shift to a mainly online count.

     In addition, the Trump administration’s plan to require that people declare if they’re U.S. citizens has triggered worries from former census directors and many others that Latinos will refuse to take part out of fear of deportation. (The Constitution requires that every “person in the country be counted.”)

     This isn’t just academic: The census count is how federal money is distributed, in Maryland’s case more than $16 billion annually in a host of dispersements from Medicaid to student aid to highway funds.

     So there are many reasons behind Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman’s announcement this week that he is setting up a Complete Count Committee that includes community leaders and local government officials.

     “In terms of state and federal funding,” Pittman said, “if you don’t get counted then you don’t count — and that has real consequences.”

     Undercounts can be especially harmful in places that need federal and state monies the most. Pittman announced his plan in a hard-to-count Brooklyn Park census tract, where nearly one-quarter of people did not participate in the last census.

    By Pittman’s count, that lack of response in 2010 translated to $1.7 million lost to the community.  

    Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley said: “We have communities that may be difficult to count, but we will be conducting the necessary outreach to get the job done.”

    Pittman named Harry Freeman, of Pasadena, an analyst at Fort Meade, to head the Complete Count Committee.

     To reach some of the most challenging segments, Anne Arundel County joins 35 other Maryland government and nonprofit organizations in sharing $4.09 million in state outreach funding. Anne Arundel’s grant is $45 million.