Ninety-nine percent down, one to go: Census nears completion in Vermont

By Ariadne Will

Vermont’s Complete Count Committee has worked with groups across the state to encourage participation in this year’s census. (Sean Rhee)

For Vermonters, a complete 2020 Decennial Census count is within reach. As of Tuesday morning, nearly 99% of Vermonters have responded to the census.

“We are close to having it as complete as can be,” said Jason Broughton, state librarian and chair of Vermont’s Complete Count Committee.

Broughton explained that the census is responsible for largehuge amounts of federal funding, as well congressional redistricting and the reapportionment of U.S. House of Representatives seats. as the redistricting of congressional seats.

He said that miscounts — particularly undercounts — can lead to massive funding losses. A 2018 paper about the 2010 Decennial Census reported a possible 1% undercount and discussed the undercount’s effect on a single program funded by the Department of Health and Human Services.

According to Broughton, the possible 1% undercount meant approximately 6,000 Vermonters may have gone uncounted. He said that relatively small miscounts like this can have a big impact.: Tthe paper reported a possible $14 million federal funding loss in 2015, alone. 

“If you think about it, some people say, ‘Oh, that’s not that bad,’ until you say, ‘That’s $14 million for that small amount of people, every single year, for ten years, until the next census.’ And that was one specific program,” Broughton said.

In 2016 alone, it was reported that Vermont received nearly $2.5 billion based on data collected in the 2010 Decennial Census.

To make sure everyone is included in the survey, Broughton said the Complete Count Committee has worked with Vermont groups and agencies to reach out to hard-to-count populations. These populations include single mothers with children, the elderly, the disabled, and migrant workers who may be undocumented.

“We were doing a lot during the tail end with Vermont Migrant Justice,” he explained. “They let us know that they were able to get in touch or do outreach with 400 persons in that community.”

The partnerships with Migrant Justice and other organizations haves also helped distribute correct information to individuals. This information includes the wording that the census counts “all whole persons” residing in the U.S. at the time of its conduct. 

The inclusion of undocumented persons in the census is something that presidential officials are working to change in this year’s count. The State of Vermont joined aA lawsuit filed earlier this year against the Trump administration was joined by the State of Vermont, with Broughton cited in the opinion submittedfiled by federal court justices.

Broughton said that Vermont’s involvement in the suit was crucial to its success, but he added that the Trump Administration is currently working on an appeal.

“I do anticipate that there’s going to be a lot of conversation about the accuracy of this year’s numbers,” he said.

But for now, he’s concerned with concluding a complete count of the state.

“Everyone has worked feverishly and endlessly in our outreach effort to make sure we get to as many people as possible,” he said. “It’s been a very interesting year.”

Census response ends Sept. 30. People who have not yet responded can self-report online or by calling (844) 330-2020. The questionnaire contains nine questions and can be completed in under ten minutes. It is completely confidential.