November 19, 2019

The Census Does More than Count People

Florida TaxWatch | 7/25/2019

Generations of Americans have participated in the United States Census process since it began in 1790, and many people know that the decennial Census, conducted every 10 years, is the basis for apportioning representation in Congress and state legislatures. But few realize that it also helps determine the allotment of hundreds of billions of dollars in annual federal program funding to the states.1 The data from the 2020 Census will be used to allocate this funding for the next 10 years! This makes the upcoming 2020 Census vital to the quality of life in your community and all of Florida.

This federal funding is not a handout – it is part of the approximately $200 billion in taxes that Floridians send to Washington, D.C. every year. In addition to direct payments to individuals such as Social Security (which the Census does not impact), there are 132 programs that distribute approximately $700 billion to the state using data from the decennial Census. Most of the large programs use decennial census data on population and income.2 These programs touch all facets of everyday life, including: education, health, transportation, water and waste infrastructure, assistance to low income, elderly and disabled persons, affordable housing, economic development, job training, the arts, and the environment. When Florida does not get back its fair share of these tax dollars, our money goes to subsidize these programs in other states.

That is exactly what has been happening in Florida for many, many years. Florida TaxWatch has produced several reports showing that Florida receives far less than its fair share of federal money relative to other states, consistently ranking near the bottom in terms of per capita grants and grants as a percentage of federal taxes paid. The latest Florida TaxWatch grant report shows that in FY 2015, Florida received less grants per capita than every other state in the nation and concludes “It would be hard to argue that Florida’s share is anywhere close to equitable.” If Florida received the national average in per capita federal grants, our state would get $14.6 billion more of our tax money back.

Even with our relatively low amount of federal grants, Uncle Sam plays an important role in helping Florida pay for the government services it provides, with federal funds making up more than one-third of the state budget.

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