Every person counts

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A lot in Covington is riding on accurate 2020 Census
COVINGTON, Ky. - The population of Covington was undercounted by as much as 30 percent in the 2010 Census, federal officials estimate, costing the City significant funds that pay for things like affordable housing and infrastructure and negatively affecting its economic growth.
To make sure the 2020 Census is more accurate, Covington is launching a campaign whose goal is to make sure every resident is reflected in the official count.
“The Census isn’t merely a bunch of numbers,” Neighborhood Services Director Ken Smith said. “Its data is the foundation for an array of important decisions made by government agencies on the federal and state level, including the disbursement of federal dollars and the allocation of elected representation.”
The Covington City Commission recently passed a resolution recognizing the importance of the Census and committing to creating a “Complete Count Committee” to build awareness and set strategy.
Smith said the committee will be formed in the coming weeks and, as spelled out in the resolution, will consist of community leaders from groups like faith-based and non-profit organizations, local government, and historically undercounted populations.
The Census has occurred every 10 years since 1790.
“Census Day” is April 1, 2020. By April, households will receive an invitation to participate with (for the first time) three options to respond: online, by phone, or by mail.
Why it’s important
Census data is used in a number of ways, including to divvy up $675 billion in federal assistance through programs like Community Block Development Grants and HOME.
“The population - and the makeup of that population - are very important components in the formulas that dictate how much federal money is allocated for a wide range of things, from affordable housing to investment in public infrastructure like parks and streets,” said the City’s Federal Grants Manager, Jeremy Wallace.
Covington budgeted $3.4 million in those programs this year but could easily use several times that amount, Wallace said.
According to Pew Charitable Trusts, Kentucky relies on federal funding (including Medicaid, Head Start and Title 1 funding) more than most states, ranking the 4th most dependent.
Census data is also used:
  • To determine how many seats each state has in the U.S. House of Representatives.
  • To redraw Congressional and state legislative districts.
  • By regional agencies to make decisions related to public safety and emergency preparedness.
  • By businesses to help decide where to locate and create jobs. 
Related to that last point, an alleged population decline in Covington (based on 2010 numbers) was singled out as an economic development “challenge” and “negative factor” that could hurt the City’s ability to recruit outside investment, according to a recent development strategy written for Covington by a national business consultant.
“Population growth can be a significant factor in local economic health and is often a key consideration in business expansion and site-selection decisions,” the report from Atlanta-based Garner Economics says. “Population declines, very slow growth rates, or significant domestic out-migration cause companies to be wary of an area, favoring those locations that are dynamic and growing.”
But the City agrees with the national Census Bureau that the 2010 Census undercounted its population and is working to fix that in 2020, City Manager David Johnston said.
“This is critical,” Johnston said. “Aside from being used to allocate federal and state funds and to determine the boundaries of our federal and state legislative districts, once every 10 years we get the opportunity to see who we are as a community.”
Hard to count
Several Census tracts in Covington are listed on the federal HTC (Hardest To Count) maps, with the return rate on mailed forms measured at 73 percent or less.
Census officials told Covington officials that undercounted populations tend to include children (especially in split households), the elderly, the homeless, and immigrants, with that difficulty increased by factors related to poverty, low education levels, racial and ethnic diversity, and rental property.
They stressed, however, that federal law requires that all Census data is kept confidential and that personal information may not be shared.
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