ORLANDO, Fla. — Florida currently has 27 congressional seats; it is poised to gain two more after the census. However, an expected undercount could mean the state misses out on billions of dollars in federal funding as well as on a possible third seat.
The US Census, which normally ends at the end of October, will instead wrap up at the end of September. Making matters worse, Florida is in the bottom-10 for states being counted; lagging behind the nationwide average as well as California, New York, and Texas.
“We know that in the South particularly in Florida we have a very high undercount,” says former Georgia representative Stacey Abrams. “We talk about 1.5 trillion dollars being allocated but for Florida alone a one percent undercount is worth 188-million dollars, at 10% which is where Florida is, that is 1.8-billion dollars stripped out of the economy.”
In 2000, it is estimated Florida undercounted its population by 250,000. In 2010 the state undercounted by 1.4 million. These undercounts cost the state an estimated $22 billion over two decades.
While non-profits, cities, and counties across Florida have mobilized to get the count, the state has been slow to act. Florida did not appoint a committee to coordinate efforts until January, long after many other states had already taken this step. The state also did not choose to appropriate any money for the count, while other sates like California and New York dedicated millions to make sure counts were thorough.
“For a state like Florida that has a massive influx of people that is growing exponentially this is so critically important,” says Former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu. “The census is the basic building block of our democracy.”
Growth projections for the state show Florida picking up at least two new members of the United States House of Representatives , however, with a full count of Florida’s population the state could get a third.
“It is not just congressional districts, it’s what happens at the state legislature, your city council, your county commission, even your school board is determined by the census,” says Abrams.
Cox Media Group