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Low Response Rate On 2020 Census Could Cost Arkansas Billions

US Census Bureau

Arkansans could lose billions in federal funding as a result of changes to the 2020 census. Earlier this week, the U.S. Census Bureau announced the deadline for states to accept responses is now September 30, a full month earlier than previously planned.

Brad Cameron, spokesman for Arkansas Counts, says more than four out of every 10 households in the state have not yet submitted responses to the census.

"A 1% undercount results in nearly a billion dollars lost over the next decade, so we're looking at — where we currently stand with our response rate — losing over $40 billion over the next decade because of our undercount."

According to the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau, Arkansas's response rate of 57.7% is among the lowest in the nation. The national self-response rate is 63%. The census count, which is taken once every decade, is also used to determine political districts and representation.

"What we're standing to lose with not having that extra month is the historically hard to count communities," Cameron said. "These are children under five, people of color, rural residents. They're historically undercounted in the census anyway, and so we rely on those face-to-face engagements, those one-on-one interactions, through door knocking, through community events."

As a precaution against spreading the coronavirus, many community events were canceled this spring and summer, the time when Arkansas Counts had planned to inform residents about the census survey. Federal law requires census numbers to be submitted to the president by Dec. 31. Based on that date, the Census Bureau originally set the deadline for responses to be the end of July. That deadline was extended to Oct. 31 in April, and has now been shortened to September 30.

Responses can be submitted either on-line or by mail.

David Monteith worked as a reporter for KUAR News between 2015 and July 2022.
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