Census official said census undercount cost Carter County millions

John Thompson • Updated Mar 17, 2020 at 8:36 PM

ELIZABETHTON — When Kevin Flanary of the U.S. Department of Commerce spoke to members of the Carter County Commission during Monday night’s monthly meeting, he chose a topic that was sure to keep their attention. Flanary talked about the $100 million the county will lose in federal funds because of an undercount of the county’s population.

Flanary first explained what the commissioners knew, that the county’s population is used in determining how federal funds are divided. The larger the county’s population, the more funds are provided to the county. But the population is determined by the census, so if someone is not counted in the census, those federal dollars are not provided to the county.

Flanary said each person counted in the census means the county receives about $1,091. Every person not counted means the county fails to receive $1,091 in federal funds it should have received. He said about 10,000 Carter Countians were not counted in the last census. That amounts to about $10.9 million the county lost in one year that the federal government might have provided to the county.

But that is just the tip of the iceberg. The census is only taken once every 10 years. That means the $10.9 million not received from the federal government for one year must be multiplied by the number of years of the miscounted census. That $10.9 million in the undercount now results in a total off $109 million the county lost all together from not counting 10,000 of its citizens in the 2010 Census.

In the documents Flanary provided, it was stated that “an accurate count is the goal of every census. … The results of the census have real-world impacts — and consequences — for communities across the country. From determining the number of seats each state has in the U.S. House of Representatives to planning for roads, schools and hospitals, an accurate count is crucial.”

Flanary saId letters have already gone out to residents, allowing them to complete the census online. Those who didn’t respond to the first letter received a second letter. He said the entire process takes only a few minutes. There is also a way to answer the census by phone. For those who do not take advantage of these two methods, the old-fashioned census takers will be dispatched to their homes to gather the important data.

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