Snowbirds could complicate the 2020 census for Florida

A meeting of The Villages/Tri-County Chapter of the League of Women Voters on Monday featured a presentation from Karen Kagalis on the 2020 Census Bureau, with an emphasis on Florida’s unique challenges.

Kagalis explained how the U.S. Constitution requires that a census be conducted every 10 years. The census is used to determine how many Congressional seats each state is allotted, as well as how some federal funds are allocated. Each year, $675 billion in funding is allocated to the various state and local governments for the next decade based on population. Programs such as student lunches, Head Start, schools, hospitals and roads use the census data for their share of federal funds. The accuracy of the census directly impacts every city, county and state in the nation.

Karen Kagalis of the Census Bureau is flanked by LWV co-presidents Beth Hicks, left, and Gail Formanack.

Florida presents some special challenges due to the number of homeless people living in the state, transient students and snowbirds. The census is supposed to be a snapshot of the population as of April 1, 2020, said Kagalis. A census form will be mailed to every address in the state. She went on to explain that much of the data will be entered online by the residents from the forms sent to their residence.

League of Women Voters members met Monday at the Manatee Recreation Center.

Snowbirds present a real problem, as they often have two residences and all forms are sent to each address of record and are not forwarded to another address like regular mail. Kagalis fielded a question from the audience on what happens when the resident lives seven months in one state and five months in another. Her answer was that the residence on April 1 determines where the count should be made. While that answer raises some real questions as to the primary residence which would effect each state’s real population, Kagalis said the Census Bureau must use the April 1 date.

The homeless population and those who do not respond will be visited in person by census workers. Areas like Gainesville will have to make a concerted effort to ensure that all of the college students in their area are counted. Many of those students reside there more than eight months of the year and failing to have them counted as residents can have a major impact on the budgets of local government.

More information is available at 2020census.gov.