More than 100 non-profit leaders, city and county staff, and volunteers gathered in Tree Tops Park in Davie Wednesday for the first meeting of a committee formed in preparation for the 2020 Census.
Broward's 'Complete Count' committee will do outreach in hopes to increase local participation.
"An undercount would mean a 10-year funding loss for Broward County," said Fmr. State Sen. and County Commissioner, Nan Rich, who is chairing the Broward committee.
The federal government is supposed to count every person living in the country once every 10 years. The U.S. Census Bureau has been preparing for the upcoming 2020 census since 2016.
At stake is $7 trillion in federal funding through 2030, and how much representation states have in Congress.
Next year’s census will have one major differene from previous versions: the main way to participate will be online.
"I think some people will be absolutely on board," said Jo Sesodia, the Director of Planning and Development Management for Broward County. She's helping coordinate the county's census preparation.
"I think there will be some challenges, particularly with the senior population and particularly with people who live in areas where there's not such strong access to the internet," she said.
Broward has the fastest growing population in Florida for people age 85 and older, according to a 2018 report.
People will still be able to request a traditional mail-in form if they choose, or fill out their information for the census over the phone in the language they're most comfortable with.
In 2010, Fort Lauderdale had a response rate slightly lower than the national average of 72 percent. The committee is hoping to change that by doing more outreach to communities that are considered hard-to-count.
"We are a very diverse population and that means we have a lot of people from overseas, foreign countries, some of whom are linguistically isolated," Sesodia said. "We have a lot of renters living in Broward County and those people tend to move around a lot."
Other groups the committee is planning extra outreach for include the homeless and the "invisible homeless," or those who have access to temporary housing but no prospect of stable or permanent housing.
"We just have a lot of vulnerable populations, and that's the most important thing in this census is to make sure that everyone is counted," Rich said.
The count will take place in spring of 2020.
Meanwhile, the Trump Administration has been fighting backlash over a question it had planned to add to the census about U.S. citizenship.
One federal judge in New York ruled earlier this month against allowing the question on the census. The Trump Administration plans to take its request to the Supreme Court.
Rich said Wednesday she is concerned that asking people about their citizenship status could deter them from participating, even though federal law protects the privacy of answers.
“The census is held to count people, not citizens," she said. "Every person living, breathing in Broward County needs to be counted.”