1. Opinion

Column: Why Florida needs an accurate census count in 2020

Published Apr. 4


Special to the Times

Getting the count wrong would be disastrous to the needs of our diverse communities throughout Florida. Florida Nonprofit Alliance and Florida Philanthropic Network are coming together to talk about all things Census 2020.

Florida gets just one official chance each decade to count its population, making it critical that each and every resident is included during Census 2020. Mandated by the U.S. Constitution, data collected by the decennial census will determine the number of seats Florida has in Congress and will be used to distribute federal funds both to the state and to our local communities. Without an accurate count, Florida stands to lose billions of dollars and could be underrepresented in Washington for the next decade. Our state also gained two congressional seats because of the 2010 count, and we are projected to gain as many as two additional two seats in 2020.

Floridians are being called upon to engage in a shared commitment to ensure an accurate 2020 Census through full participation by all our residents. Florida receives $29.3 billion as a direct result of our 2010 census numbers, representing one-third of all state expenditures.

To put this into perspective, if the Census Bureau does not conduct a full and accurate count, Florida will suffer at multiple levels. Funding for our education services and programs will likely decrease. Urban planners need census data to know if a highway should be expanded or if more public transit is needed. Our state's roadway funding will be negatively impacted. Florida's agricultural communities might be affected when there is less federal funding for SNAP, school lunches and other federally funded nutrition initiatives. Health care dollars would certainly decrease, and access to medical services will be more challenging. Our state's overall infrastructure will suffer with unknown consequences to the greater business community.

The facts accumulated by the census are used not only by the government at all levels—they are used by all of us as business leaders, nonprofits and policymakers alike. Nonprofits utilize data for planning, resource development, targeting assistance to those in need and service delivery. Census data is part of our collective lives in a myriad of ways, and our local communities need these numbers to be as accurate as they can be.

We believe a count of all the state's residents is critically important for Florida. This will be the first time citizens will be asked to complete the census online. With a state as diverse as ours, many community leaders fear that this change will lead to a lower count of hard to count communities.

Nonprofits and funders care about a complete census count because it directly impacts the communities they serve. Join in the conversation — Census 2020 impacts Florida and it impacts all of us.

Bob McFalls is CEO of the Florida Philanthropic Network, which promotes, develops and advances philanthropy. Sabeen Perwaiz is CEO of Florida Nonprofit Alliance, which Alliance informs, promotes, and strengthens the nonprofit sector to create more vibrant communities across the state.


  1. Leonard Pitts undefined
    Don’t wall ourselves off from contradictory opinions, writes Leonard Pitts.
  2. President Donald Trump, right, and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani pose for photographs as Giuliani arrives at the Trump National Golf Club Bedminster clubhouse in Nov. 2016 in Bedminster, N.J.
    Here’s some interesting commentary from the opposite poles of the political spectrum.
  3. (left to right) Nupar Godbole, medical student at USF, and Tiffany Damm, medical student at UCF, take part in a papaya workshop at the University of South Florida Medical Students for Choice Second Annual Florida Regional Conference held in the Morsani College of Medicine on February 24, 2019 in Tampa, Florida. Some of the instruments used in abortions, like the manual vacuum aspirator, are used in an exercise with a papaya, to simulate an abortion. MONICA HERNDON  |  Times
    Here’s what readers had to say in Sunday’s letters to the editor.
  4.  LISA BENSON  |  Lisa Benson -- Washington Post Writers Group
  5. Exhaust rises from smokestacks in front of piles of coal in Thompsons, Texas. [Associated Press]
    A proposed rule masquerades as transparency when it actually is a favor to polluters.
  6. Using a tool provided by NOAA, this map shows what parts of the Tampa Bay region would be underwater if sea levels rose 8 feet, which could happen by 2100. NOAA
    The real-world impacts of climate change are accelerating for us in Tampa Bay.
  7. An architect's rendering of a foster care village proposed for Lake Magdalene. Ross Chapin Architects
    Here’s what readers had to say in Saturday’s letters to the editor.
  8. Campbell Park Elementary School is one of the seven schools included in St. Petersburg City Council member Steve Kornell's plan to help homeless students in the school system. SHADD, DIRK  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The City Council appears poised to help homeless families find places to live more quickly.
  9. Kimberly Clemons, 41, a resident of the Kenwood Inn, St. Petersburg receives a free Hepatitis A vaccination from Fannie Vaughn, a nurse with the Florida Department of Health Pinellas County, Tuesday, October 22, 2019. The health department has issued a state of emergency over the hepatitis A outbreak in Florida.  SCOTT KEELER  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The strategy regarding vaccinations is working and benefits all residents.
  10. Fiberglass planters remain in place at Lykes Gaslight Square Park on Friday, July 5, 2019, five months after city workers removed all of its benches for refurbishing. There is still no sign of them returning. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times
    Quit clogging up precious downtown green space.