Federal tax dollars in Kansas
Here’s a look at the total amount of federal aid and assistance area counties received in federal fiscal year 2008:
Douglas: $863 million
Franklin: $215.2 million
Jefferson: $152.4 million
Johnson: $3.1 billion
Leavenworth: $1.6 billion
Riley: $650.8 million
Shawnee: $2.6 billion
Wyandotte: $1.6 billion
Source: Fiscal Year 2008 Consolidated Federal Funds Report
In a county where boosting economic development efforts has become a time-consuming political effort, local leaders believe they’ve found a quick path to bring new dollars into the community.
Check a box — a Census box.
“It is astounding to think how much money is tied to just checking a box and letting people know you reside in Douglas County,” said Megan Gilliland, the city of Lawrence’s communications manager who also is working on the city’s team to boost Census participation.
In fiscal year 2008, the federal government pumped $863.08 million into the Douglas County economy through federal assistance and aid.
Sure, it would be a stretch to say all of it — the numbers include everything from Social Security payments to farm operating loans — is tied to the U.S. Census.
But a lot of it is.
A new study this month by the Brookings Institution found that about 25 percent of all federal assistance that Kansas receives is tied to formulas that rely heavily on Census data. If that percentage holds true in Douglas County, that means about $215 million — in just one year — depends upon how well local residents fill out the Census forms that should have arrived in their mailboxes last week.
“The Census tables are the fundamental database that everything else is derived from,” said Peter Hancock, public information officer for the Kansas Health Policy Authority. “Having accurate population numbers is critical to everything that government does.”
Leaders in the health care industry particularly have a lot riding on the 2010 Census count. The Brookings report estimates that the Medicaid program is the largest federal program that is most directly tied to accurate population numbers.
Hancock said the amount of money the state receives in federal Medicaid funding is tied to a formula that relies heavily on per capita income. The federal funding accounts for about 60 percent of the state’s total Medicaid program.
“We wouldn’t have a state Medicaid program if it wasn’t for the federal assistance,” Hancock said.
Large amounts of the Medicaid money end up being spent in the Douglas County health care sector. In 2008, $26.6 million in Medicaid funding was allocated to Douglas County residents.
Other large federal programs, according to the Brookings report, that are heavily tied to Census numbers include:
• Highway planning and construction: $3.6 million in Douglas County in 2008.
• Section 8 housing choice vouchers and housing payments: $4.3 million;
• Title 1 education grants: $1.05 million.
• Department of Agriculture very low- to moderate-income housing loans: $961,000.
• State Children’s Insurance Program: $667,000.
• The low-income Women, Infants and Children’s food program: $1.1 million.
Gilliland said it’s hoped that understanding the numbers will make it more likely that Douglas County residents take the time to fill out the Census form.
“We have tried to localize the importance of the Census as much as we can,” Gilliland said. “We want people to understand that it is related to so many things that are tied back to everyday life.”
The Census also is used to allocate seats in the U.S. of Representatives. Thus far, several models used to project how the reapportionment process will work have Kansas not losing or gaining any seats as a result of the 2010 Census numbers.
Federal law requires residents to fill out the Census forms. Census leaders want people to fill them out and mail them back by April 1. By mid-May, Census workers will start knocking on doors of households that have not returned a Census form.