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Prospects of third new congressional seat spurs Florida to boost 2020 census effort

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Florida will join 45 other states in creating a state executive committee to raise awareness of the 2020 census and assist the U.S. Census Bureau in conducting the decennial headcount.

Gov. Ron DeSantis, who maintained for months the census was best left to the Bureau and more than 120 local committees statewide, said Monday “Florida will do its part to support the federal government’s efforts” and appointed Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nunez to lead a 19-member Florida Complete Count Committee.

“The U.S. Census provides critical information to ensure our citizens are being well-served,” Nunez said in a statement. “As the third-most-populous state in the nation, with an incredibly diverse population, I look forward to working with leaders and stakeholders across the Sunshine State to ensure the voices of our residents are heard during this important process.”

What may have spurred DeSantis to lend executive assistance to the census, which officially begins April 1, is the state’s potential of qualifying for a third new congressional district and revelations that an estimated 200,670-person undercount in the 2000 Census cost Florida about $225 million annually, or more than $2.5 billion over the decade.

Other estimates claim Florida’s 2010 Census undercount was 1.3 million, resulting in more than $14.6 billion in “returned tax money” for state and local governments over the decade.

The U.S. Census Bureau last week estimated Florida’s population at 21.48 million, which means the state is virtually assured of adding two members to its 27-member Congressional delegation and gain two votes in the Electoral College.

However, Virginia-based political consulting firm Election Data Services projects Florida is about 172,000 people away from adding another seat – nearly 200,000 people closer to qualifying for a third new congressional district than it was in 2018.

The 2020 Census-based distribution formulas will allocate more than $700 billion annually in federal funding, a projected $1.5 trillion through 2030.

Although DeSantis created the executive panel to coordinate with the Bureau and local complete count committees, the announcement did not indicate if the state was allocating any money to the effort.

Unlike California, which has spent nearly $200 million preparing for the 2020 census – New York City $40 million, Illinois $29 million – Florida did not allocate any money for the census in its 2020 budget.

State lawmakers approved a statewide complete count committee in 1990 with a $200,000 budget, in 2000 with a $1.5 million budget and in 2010 with a $2.1 million budget.

Two pre-filed 2020 bills call for the creation of a 24-member state complete count committee to be coordinated through the Florida State Department. Neither request money.

U.S. Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham in a December visit to Orlando said the bureau will hire as many as 500,000 census-takers nationwide beginning in March and ending in June. Those hires in Central Florida will be paid $19.50 an hour, he said.

Among government officials joining Nunez on the Florida Complete Count committee is Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz, Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs Executive Director Danny Burgess, Florida Adjutant General Maj. Gen. James Eifert, State University System Board of Governors member Brian Lamb and Miami-Dade County Commissioner Esteban Bovo.

Representatives of the Florida Association of Counties, Florida League of Cities, NAACP, the Urban League of Florida, AARP Florida, the Coalition of Florida Farm Workers, Florida School Board Association, United Way, the Hispanic Services Council, Florida Coalition to End Homelessness and Asian American Federation of Florida have been appointed to the committee.

State business leaders on the panel include Florida Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Mark Wilson, Florida Outdoor Advertising Association’s Charlotte Brand Audie, former Florida House Speaker Tom Feeney of the Associated Industries of Florida, Bill Herrle, National Federation of Independent Business, Paola Pierre of the Haitian American Chamber of Commerce and Brad Swanson of the Florida Internet & Television Association.

The committee’s goal, Nunez said, is to “support the U.S. Census Bureau’s work to facilitate an accurate population count in Florida. I look forward to working with leaders and stakeholders across the Sunshine State to ensure the voices of our residents are heard during this important process.”

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