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The city of Florence is pushing the importance of being counted in the 2020 Census, because the city potentially lost millions in federal funds because of the 2010 Census numbers.
Federal census officials estimate about 30% of Florence citizens weren't counted in 2010. That's about 6,000 people, which is a potential loss of $1,600 per person in federal funds over 10 years. Those numbers show the city may have lost as much as $96 million, because those 6,000 people weren't counted.
"I am shocked to hear that," said a Florence resident, Juanita Sheffield.
She's lived in Florence for three decades and was surprised to find out how much the census count can affect a city.
"That's money that I think would be important to a lot of programs," said Sheffield.
The Census Bureau identified areas of east and west Florence that were hard to count, despite that the city still saw growth in the 2010 Census numbers.
"We saw a little over 8% growth, which is better than the 1990 and 2000 Census where we lost population," said Florence Mayor Steve Holt.
Holt said even though the city is growing on a positive trend, the census numbers need to reflect that. This could affect what new restaurants and stores come to the area.
"If you're Starbucks and you're looking at Florence that had negative 1% growth and Dothan that had positive 9% growth, it's pretty logical you're gonna make your investment in Dothan. The fact that we had 8% growth in 2010 was so important for us and you can see some of those results," said Holt.
Holt said the census numbers affect federal money for grants and that's why they are pushing to educate citizens on the importance of being counted.
"We're a direct recipient of community development block grants based on population. The city of Florence school system, as all school systems, are a direct recipient of free lunch and reduced lunches based on population," said Holt.
Florence City Schools Superintendent Jimmy Shaw said they've lost about $500,000 in federal funds because the poverty population went down in the 2010 Census.
"The poverty levels tracked down, which is a great thing for the city, but it mean't we got less funding, and that is great, but what we don't want are the uncounted people more than likely are poverty families who weren't counted, so we're still having to serve larger numbers of people who have those needs, but with fewer funds," said Shaw.
The 2020 Census will begin in April and the message from the city of Florence is clear. Get counted.
The city of Florence has set up a special web page just for the 2020 Census with answers to citizens' questions. You can click here to check it out.