LWVNC President Jo Nicholas recently submitted the following letter to Sen. Thom Tillis:
September 12, 2020
The League of Women Voters of North Carolina and our seventeen local League affiliates write to urge you to adopt the Census Bureau’s recommendation to extend statutory reporting deadlines for apportionment and redistricting. We must ensure a full and complete count of all communities in the country and not rush 2020 Census operations, when the most difficult work lies ahead. In the face of political and partisan jockeying the Census must continue to adhere to its mission that everyone is counted once, only once, and in the right place. All people who call America home have an equal opportunity to be counted in the 2020 Census. As a Senator we urge you to work with your colleagues to extend the deadlines to ensure that the census, which is the bedrock of our democracy, is protected.
We cannot afford to allow the census to be used as a political pawn. Actions by the Administration take us down a dangerous, but familiar path. The three-fifths compromise was into the U.S. Constitution to mandate that slaves, also not then considered citizens, be counted, but on as three-fifths of a human being for the sole reason of it being politically advantageous. Over 200 years later, this Administration proposes to turn back the clock on our country’s civil rights movement, and erase the right to fair representation for partisan and racial advantage in congressional apportionment.
This census is incredibly important to states such as North Carolina. Each year, census figures help direct enormous amounts of federal funding. An analysis of 55 census-directed programs found that in fiscal year 2016, North Carolina received $23.8 billion in funding based on census results. That includes
- $1 billion for highway planning and construction
- $2.2 billion for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
- $341 million in special education grants
- $87 million for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program
- $45 million in grants to prevent and treat substance abuse
One important census-based formula is the federal medical assistance percentage (FMAP), which determines how funding is allocated for five major programs that support the health and well-being of children and families: Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program the Federal Foster Care Program, the Adoption Assistance Program and the Child Care and Development Fund. In fiscal year 2015, for each person not counted in the last census, the state of North Carolina lost $988 in FMAP funds. Moreover, census data have been used to allocate resources from the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) and will almost certainly be used to allocate future federal fund to combat COVID-19. The state of North Carolina was expected to receive an estimated $4.08 billion in CRF funds.
The Census Bureau has predicted that it will need $1.5 billion of its $2 billion emergency budget to support COVID-19 related activities, leaving the Bureau with only $500 million in contingency funds. In these unprecedented times, it is extremely likely that the Census Bureau will need to exceed the current emergency budget to assure an accurate count in historically hard to count communities and communities acutely hit by the COVID-19 crisis. Again, Congress must act to replenish the contingency fund and extend the deadlines for Congressional apportionment.
Thank you for protecting the health of our democracy, while simultaneously ensuring public health for all Americans and especially North Carolinians.
President, League of Women Voters of North Carolina