An accurate tally of the census is critical to counties across the nation. Not only will the results of the census inform congressional representation and serve as record of population and demographics, the census data will inform how nearly $900 billion of funding is allocated.

Results of the census will be key to determining eligibility and funding allocation for critical programs such as the National School Lunch Program, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and loan and rental assistance programs. SNAP alone allocates $71 billion each year from data derived from the census.

Data extrapolated from the census also informs programs that target and provide assistance to rural areas. As recently as 2016, $30 billion dollars were distributed through 60 programs to rural areas, all targeted through census data.

Since 1910, April 1 has been the reference date for the census. This date is significant because it marks a point in time where respondents to the census should answer what county they live in most of the time. Some concerns have been raised regarding this date, particularly as in most cases, it causes students attending a post-secondary institution to be counted as residing in the county of the institution where they attend school. This count date could have a greater adverse impact on rural counties.

Because the count is an important determinant for programmatic resources, some states have taken to investing funds in ensuring counties are set up with the tools to ensure the correct number of people are counted in each county.

To learn more about the census, and current efforts from National Association of Counties, click here.

Contributed by: Megan Chuinard | Public Affairs Associate