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The census will affect food assistance programs

Knowing how many children are in an area helps federal, state and local officials evaluate funding for nutrition programs.

SNAP, previously known as Food Stamps, provides nutrition benefits to supplement the food budgets of families ”so they can purchase healthy food and move towards self-sufficiency,” according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), which manages the program.

The 2020 Census will help officials plan for SNAP and other federal nutrition programs for the next 10 years. SNAP receives approximately $71 billion a year in federal funds, according to a report by the U.S. Census Bureau.  

How the 2020 Census will affect Mercer County Schools

The 2020 Census count impacts the federal funds that communities receive each year for programs and services that are critical for schools, students, and younger children, such as:

  • Special education, Head Start, after-school programs, and classroom technology.
  • Food assistance, including free and reduced-price school lunches.
  • Maternal and child health programs.

Census data determines the distribution of:

  • More than $14 billion in Title I grants that help schools serve more than 24 million students from low-income families;
  • $11.3 billion in special education grants to the states;
  • About $13.6 billion for the National School Lunch Program;
  • Plus funds for the Head Start preschool program and grants to improve teacher quality.

Data from and reflects 2015 distributions.


All told, more than 130 critical government programs serving primarily low-income people use census data to allocate more than $675 billion, research shows.  This includes the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which keeps millions of families out of poverty and has lasting benefits for children’s health and academic success.

If some groups aren’t accurately represented in the census, it will be more difficult for their states to cover the needs that exist in their communities. The schools their children attend will be underfunded, and the resulting lack of resources can negatively affect all students in the school.

-Education News/By Amanda Litvinov

How to count children

It is important to count all children, but those under the age of 5 are often missed, particularly when they don’t live in the same home as both parents. When newborn babies and young children are not included in the census, support for programs such as health insurance, hospitals, child care, food assistance, schools, and early childhood development is impacted. It is critical to get this count right for the 2020 Census, and teachers and other educators can help.


Importance of counting all children

The 2020 Census helps determine how much money communities receive for the critical resources that children and families will depend on for the next 10 years—basically, an entire childhood! Resources that could be impacted include food assistance, Head Start, child care, housing support, public schools, early intervention services for children with special needs, and children’s health insurance. Knowing how many children there are and where they live is essential to getting those services and programs to them.

Seniors and the Census

As the country gears up for the 2020 census next March — the first that will be completed largely online — experts say there will be challenges in getting older people to participate.

A recent U.S. Census Bureau survey found that 56 percent of those 65 and older aren’t comfortable with an online response and prefer to fill out a paper census form. “The concerns over privacy and cybersecurity will have to be overcome, and those concerns are highest for those over 50,” says Steve Jost, a former Census Bureau official.

The stakes are high. In 2016, for example, more than 300 federally funded programs relied on census data to distribute more than $675 billion to states and localities. That includes funds for schools, roads and hospitals and also programs that aid older Americans, like Medicare Part B.

“Participating in the census means getting counted to determine how much federal funding comes into your community and how congressional representation is determined,” says AARP National Volunteer President Catherine Alicia Georges. “AARP members need to make sure they are not left out of this very important process.”

Georges says it is important for older Americans who don’t want to take the census digitally to know they won’t be forced to. “No one has to take the census online,” she says.

-Joe Eaton, AARP, Sept. 5, 2019

Population Count Will Inform How and Where Billions of Dollars Will Be Spent for the Next Decade


Next time you’re on your morning commute, merging on to a freeway or crossing a bridge, think of the decennial census.

Your responses to the 2020 Census, which includes every person living in the United States, may help decide when and where roads and bridges will be built in your community.

Billions of dollars in federal funds (more than $675 billion) are spent annually on critical transportation services in communities across the country, including maintenance and construction of roads and bridges. The decennial census count will inform spending decisions for the next decade.