Las Vegas Sun

October 23, 2018

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Census may leave thousands of Nevada’s children uncounted

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About 38 percent of Nevada’s children 5 years of age or younger are at risk of being undercounted in the 2020 census, according to the 2018 Kids Count Data Book by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

An estimated 68,000 Nevadan children are at risk of being excluded in the upcoming 2020 U.S. Census, which could affect the federal funding the state receives to operate programs.

The census is used to evaluate the amount of funding a state needs to operate federal programs. If the count is inaccurate, the programs will suffer a shortage, said Denise Tanta, executive director of the Children’s Advocacy Alliance.

“The census happens once every 10 years, and the federal government uses that in several different ways,” Tanta said. “For the kids we’re looking at, there are about 300 federally funded programs that are reliant on data from the census.”

The state receives more than $1 billion to operate programs such as Medicaid, SNAP, Head Start and foster care, according to the Children’s Advocacy Alliance.

Part of the expected exclusion is because of hard-to-count areas — locations where the population is transient or rural, or where there are multiple generations of family members in one house, Tanta said.

She also said adding a citizenship question to the census could cause fear in the immigration population and deter them from participating.

“We must make accurately counting young children a priority between now and 2020,” Patrick McCarthy, CEO of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, said in a news release. “As a country, we know how important it is to give children a great start in life. That can only happen if we have the right data to tell us where they are, what they need and how to ensure they have the bright futures they deserve.”

In addition to analyzing the effect of the census on funding, the foundation’s 2018 Kids Count Data Book, an annual report, assessed child well-being by using 16 indicators to rank each state in four major categories, including economic well-being, education, health, and family and community.

“Although we have seen improvements in Nevada on several well-being indicators for children, the data show that we have much more work to do,” Tanta said in a news release. “We must make a commitment to making children a priority. That means ensuring that we receive our appropriate share of federal funding through an accurate census count in 2020 and making state investments that address the needs of our children and families.”

Nevada ranks 47th overall nationally, according to the Kids Count report.

The state fell three spots from 40th to 43rd for overall economic well-being and the state’s educational rank remained at 49th for the third year in a row.

Federal funding directly affects programs that could improve Nevada’s rank in reports like this, Tanta said. For example, Nevada does poorly in the early childhood education rankings but could improve through federal funding such as Childhood Development Block Grants or preschool funds.

“We’re talking about millions and millions of dollars that could be lost for the state of Nevada if we don’t have an accurate count,” Tanta said. “It does have a direct impact on the level of services we can provide to make sure kids receive an adequate level of education, to make sure they receive adequate health care. Our state tends to be very reliant on federal funding to support a lot of those social services.”