The Chairman of the Puerto Rico Institute of Statistics’ board, Economist Nicolás Muñoz, He urged all mayors to mobilize the resources of municipal agencies to visit houses street by street, combing through all communities to alert families to the importance of filling out the 2020 Population Census form.
This while taking all the prevention and protection measures related to curbing the spread of COVID-19.
As of July 13, only 25% of Puerto Rican families had answered the Census. This, according to Muñoz, represents half of those who had answered the Census in 2010. In mid-July, the response level in the municipalities ranged from 14% to 31%.
“It’s vital for the municipalities and their residents that the federal funds that arrive are not reduced by 25% or more. Without detracting from the importance of exercising the democratic right to vote, designating resources to help citizens complete the Census should be considered just as meritorious as the efforts being made for the primaries and electoral process,” said Muñoz.
“If mobilization is not promoted to stimulate the communities to dedicate 15 minutes to answer the form, we would add another disaster to the chain of events that have occurred on the island since the earthquake in January to the present. In this case, a disaster whose consequences would last 10 years,” said Muñoz.
The economist explained that if 25% of the population does not respond to the survey, Puerto Rico end up with a headcount of less than 3 million residents and could receive 25% less federal funds, which would be equivalent to $5 billion annually or $50 billion in 10 years, if an average allocation of $20 billion annually is used as an example.
This does not take into account the additional special assignments in the case of natural disasters, he said.
More than 300 federal programs base the distribution of funds on population data. These programs include federal funds for highway construction, agriculture, rural development, housing, urban development, solid waste management, telecommunication infrastructure, drinking water, protection of coastal resources, help with payment of household income, education, justice, nutrition assistance program, school breakfasts, childcare, workforce development under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act — among other laws — aid to the elderly and health, including Medicaid, among other programs, Muñoz said.
“The economic situation of the municipalities will worsen if access to federal funds allocated by Congress is reduced. Every Puerto Rican who can read and write can fill out the Census form,” Muñoz said.
“It can be filled out online or on paper. Each neighbor can help another neighbor who cannot read and write or how to fill it out, particularly older adults. It’s everyone’s job, but the mayors, who are the officials closest to the needs of citizens, must exercise their leadership in this vital priority for Puerto Rico,” Muñoz said.