There’s no time like the present.


There’s no time like the present to make sure you’re counted in the 2020 U.S. Census. That’s the message we want everyone in Kansas to hear — especially those families with young children.


At Kansas Action for Children, we’re paying attention to the Census right now for two big reasons. First off, the decennial count of every person in our country is used to determine how federal funds flow to communities. And those federal funds play a huge role in making sure that kids grow up healthy and strong.


As the statewide Kansas Counts effort notes, missing even 1% of our population means we’d lose $603,990,400 over the next decade. That money supports Medicaid; the Children’s Health Insurance Program; the Women, Infants and Children nutrition program; and other vital services.


Second, the 2020 Census response deadline has been changed. It’s now Sept. 30, which means that all online and mail responses, as well as door-to-door visits, must be wrapped up by the end of the month.


This is a big deal, and potentially catastrophic. The accelerated timetable means that hard-to-reach populations, such as Black and Latino communities, rural residents and those living in poverty, could be overlooked by the federal government.


These children can be more challenging to count for many reasons, according to the Count All Kids campaign. They can live in larger, multigenerational households. They may live with single parents who are working every day to get by. Perhaps they’re not the biological child of their caregiver or live with extended families. Other members of their household may be undocumented immigrants and reluctant to respond. They may simply be renters rather than homeowners.


We can’t allow this to happen.


In the middle of a pandemic, when state tax revenue is plummeting and residents across the state are sacrificing, Census-directed funding will be a vital lifeline. According to the Pew Trusts, programs using this data contributed an astonishing 32% of state revenue in 2017. That’s right — a third of state funds depends on an accurate Census count.


How much could communities in Kansas lose?


Where are we right now? According to the Census Bureau itself, as of Aug. 26 the Kansas self-response rate was 68.5%, with 20.6% of folks counted through follow-up. That means about 89% of Kansans are accounted for, which sounds good (and is indeed fourth best of all states). On the other hand, we’re still missing more than one in 10 Kansans, including children.


Our friends at the Partnership for America’s Children put it so well earlier this month:


"The 2010 Census missed 2 million children under age 5 — by far the largest number of people missed in any age group. When young children are missed in the census, it reduces the federal resources for their schools, their child care, their health care, and many other programs essential for their well-being. Missing a young child means reducing the resources they need to thrive for a decade — most of their childhood."


We all have to act to make sure our friends, families, and communities respond to this year’s Census.


By taking 10 minutes of your time today, you will be shaping your community for the next 10 years.


John Wilson is the president of Kansas Action for Children.