Census 2020: States Could Lose Billions in Funding without Accurate Residential Addresses

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Note from the Editors: Recently, the Census Bureau brought several factual errors to our attention. We extend our apologies to the Census Bureau and offer the updated information to you here. The following article identifies the errors in italics and includes the corrected information. If you are interested in the LUCA Program, we encourage you to visit the Census Bureau’s LUCA page for information on participation and more.

The Decennial U.S. Census will be conducted in 2020 and it will be the largest mailing in history. But the real story is that each state could lose millions, if not billions, of federal dollars without an accurate address file, and the deadline to supply the U.S. Census Bureau with this list is rapidly approaching.

For this census, every county, city and Indian reservation is required to send their list of known citizens, addresses and geocodes. A new requirement this year is the actual numbers of individual apartments (group quarters). Each state is provided address lists from the U.S. Census, including U.S. Postal Address data, but the lists are usually validated at the local level, and sometimes those lists are not up to date.

Correction: There is no requirement, or even opportunity, within the 2020 LUCA program to provide any information about individuals or their respective citizenship status. Also, while offering the LUCA program is the Census Bureau's implementation of the requirements of the 1994 Address List Improvement Act (P.L. 103-430), local government participation in the 2020 LUCA program is completely voluntary. If a government chooses to participate, they must perform their review and submit their address list according to the procedures provided by the Census Bureau to maintain their eligibility for the program.   

The 2020 U.S. Census requires accurate address information in order for each state to tally the population, justify federal funding, and secure legislative representation. In order to prepare for the Local Update for Census Addresses, local and state governments must ensure that their address list contains multi-unit structure identifiers (such as apartment numbers for individual units), and that they can distinguish between residential addresses and nonresidential addresses. The list must also identify local address sources, such as building permits, E-911 address files, local utility records, annexation records, and assessment or taxation files.

States may have 85-90 percent participation from local governments that actually do a great job with addressing. However, even if a final residential address list is 98 percent accurate, the remaining 2 percent could be a loss of several million dollars in federal aid. Here’s why:

Five grant programs administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services use the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage. FMAP determines reimbursements to, and payments from, each state government. This amounted to $286.1 billion in Fiscal Year 2015 and amounts to approximately 49 percent of total federal aid to states. For example, in Pennsylvania, FMAP funding is $1746 per resident and the state’s residential population from the U.S. Census totals 5,955,478. If the undercount is as little as 2 percent, this would result in an undercount of 119,110 residents with the potential federal assistance lost totaling approximately $208 million.

As demographics shift to an aging population, this situation becomes critical for maintaining a healthy state budget. But money isn’t the only thing lost. In 1990, California lost a seat in Congress because of an undercount of 2.7 percent; then regained a seat in 2000 by the slim margin of only 18 people. In 2010, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey and Pennsylvania all lost a seat in Congress. New York and Ohio lost two seats.

There is no federal funding involved to help individual counties or states participate in the LUCA process to rectify errors or missing residents. Some states have better participation than others from their local governments. Louisiana, for example, only had 52 percent of their parishes participate in the 2010 LUCA process.

Currently, Pitney Bowes maintains a master address fabric of approximately 193 million U.S. postal and non-postal addresses that include group quarters and other deliverable addresses. The U.S. Postal Service maintains a list of approximately 156 million addresses. The history of Pitney Bowes in address validation, mail metering and global ecommerce provides a foundation for accurate geocoding.

Due to the long-term impact of the U.S. Census, each state may consider performing their own internal audit using state data from multiple agencies. The Department of Motor Vehicles, Board of Elections, Education, and Health & Human Services can provide name and address information that can be refined to determine the number of people at each residence. This information would provide each state the confidence that their census count is accurate and would provide data that could challenge an undercount. The Pitney Bowes solution is to provide a “Single View of the Address” as a way to audit the census results, thereby determining how many people reside at each address based on the State Agency address database.

Correction: The 2020 LUCA program does not require or request any information about individuals residing at an address, nor does it request or require any counts of residents residing at an address. 

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