Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie
Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz (Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie)

HARTFORD, CT — State officials said they found $500,000 in state funds to match another $500,000 in philanthropic funds to coordinate outreach for the 2020 Census.

Until Thursday, Connecticut was one of the few states that had yet to dedicate any state funds for outreach.

The $500,000 doesn’t need legislative approval and will come from five state agencies that offer programs where the funding is calculated based on Census numbers.

The Department of Social Services, Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, Office of Early Childhood, and the Department of Public Health provided the $500,000 from their agency budgets.

“Today is not about whether Connecticut can afford to invest,” Office of Policy and Management Secretary Melissa McCaw said. “We cannot afford to not invest.”

McCaw said they will come up with a grant agreement for the philanthropic foundations, and the state and the foundations will coordinate the outreach with the community action agencies.

Rep. Chris Rosario, D-Bridgeport, who is helping with the complete count process, said he spoke with House Majority Leader Matt Ritter about allocating more state funding. Ritter is open to discussing more funding and that negotiation may take place in concert with an anticipated special session.

Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz, who has been leading the volunteer effort with Secretary of the State Denise Merrill, said Connecticut receives $10.7 billion in federal funds every year, “and we just can’t lose any of that funding.”

“In addition to all the grassroots work being done by Complete Count Committees at the local level, these state funds, matched by private funding from our philanthropic partners, will help ensure that Connecticut continues to receive that critical federal funding,” she added.

Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie
Jay Williams, president of the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving (Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie)

Hartford Foundation President Jay Williams said the $500,000 from the philanthropic community is in addition to the $448,000 his foundation has already pledged toward the outreach effort.

“The state’s role up until now has been somewhat minimal,” Merrill said. “Not only are all the social service programs that cover our quality of life in the state at risk, but also our political representation because those numbers are used to determine our federal representation in Congress and also our representation is our own communities.”

She said since this is the first time the Census will be done online she thinks they will need to have better outreach to everyone, not just the hard-to-count populations. She said the Census invitation come in the mail, but it will invite people to take the Census online. For most of the population the Census will be taken online and not by paper mail.

Emily Byrne, executive director of CT Voices for Children, who was critical of the lack of state funding for the effort, said Thursday that she’s “pleased the state has decided to fund Census implementation.”

She said they developed the report critical of the lack of funding because there’s a small window the state has to “ensure we’ve collectively done everything possible and that window is quickly closing.”

There’s $10.7 billion a year over 10 years at stake.

Byrne still worries that spending anything less than $1 per person could still lead to an undercount in Connecticut.

Rep. Pat Wilson Pheanious, D-Ashford, said the state loses $2,900 for every person they don’t count and rural communities like the one she represents are traditionally undercounted.

She said the rural areas are sometimes difficult to count because of the distance between houses and sometimes the level of mistrust in government.

“Everybody needs to be at the table,” Wilson said. “The only thing that’s stopping us is the creativity with which we decide the kind of output we’re going to have.”

Nearly 20% of Connecticut communities are considered “hard-to-count,” which means fewer than 73% mailed in their Census forms in 2010.