Low census response and declining population to possibly result in less federal funding

WEST VIRGINIA (WOAY) – The United States Census has been taking responses for more than a month now, and West Virginia currently has the third-worst response rate.

West Virginia ranks above only Alaska and Puerto Rico in census response.

Mercer County Commissioner Greg Puckett said that West Virginia already struggles with a low population, and if the state doesn’t have a good census response and population drops even lower than expected, then that means the state could lose out on federal assistance in the future. 

“Most of the federal funding that we get is tied directly to our population numbers. So if we don’t have that higher population then the federal funding will go elsewhere,” Puckett said. 

Why West Virginia has had such a poor response rate is not known, especially because you can take the census online, by phone and by mail. 

“If they’ve gotten a letter great, go ahead, fill it out, send it in, that’s fine. But they can also go onto mycensus.gov, and they can fill out all the information that they need. They can log in the number in the household, they can put all that information in. It literally takes five minutes.”

West Virginia has already had such steep population decline that is only expected to get worse. Because the state already knows there will be an expected drop in population, the federal government may make assumptions on the population data if they believe the census to be inaccurate due to a lack of responses. And that also means less federal funding.

“All of those things are tied back to whatever the federal government has and they give that through a formula based on population. And over the last ten years we’ve lost so much.”

But if people fill out their census and there is a low margin of error, then the population drop may not be as steep as expected, which means more federal funds down the line.

“Super simple, go to mycensus.gov. Log on, takes five minutes. And we can get counted. And if we do, we know that our share of the federal money will keep coming and that’s what we want to have.”

Even if you haven’t received anything in the mail about the census, you can still take it online or by phone. There is no official deadline for completing the census before the end of the year, but doing it sooner gives the government more accurate population estimates.

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