Getting an accurate count in the 2020 Census is important to Nebraska for a number of reasons, not the least of which is money.

One study suggests that for every person who fails to be counted, Nebraska misses out on $21,000 in federal funding over the next decade, a figure that can easily add up to millions of dollars if the count is short.

Despite such implications, Gov. Pete Ricketts has rejected forming a statewide “complete count” committee, a best practice the Census Bureau has encouraged among states to help ensure a full count. His decision makes Nebraska one of only two states to reject doing so.

A spokesman for Ricketts suggested that the decision was a budget issue, saying the state can get a successful count without spending “additional resources” on a committee.

“The Governor’s Office will support the Census Bureau in promoting and encouraging Nebraskans to participate in the census,” said Ricketts spokesman Taylor Gage.

However, at least one state lawmaker thinks forming a complete count committee makes financial sense. State Sen. Matt Hansen of Lincoln has introduced a bill that would create a state committee, headed by the Nebraska secretary of state.

“It makes sense to put some effort and priority into it,” Hansen said of the state census count.

In just over a year, Nebraskans will be filling out their official 2020 Census forms. The 2020 Census will mark the first in which households will be encouraged to fill out the form online.

The statewide count is most important for determining state representation in Congress. For some time, Nebraska has teetered in the brink of losing one of its three seats in the House of Representatives, though current projections have the state holding on to all three in 2020.

But there is much money at stake, too. Some 300 federal programs use population figures to aid in distribution of more than $800 billion in federal dollars to states. A recent analysis by George Washington University found that Nebraska in 2016 received just under $4 billion through such programs.

At those funding levels, that means each person missed in the 2020 Census costs the state about $2,100, or $21,000 over the 10 years between census counts, said David Drozd, a demographer for the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s Center for Public Affairs Research. If the state count were off by one-tenth of a percent, it would cost Nebraska $400 million over 10 years.

“A high undercount could lead a state to forfeit a substantial amount of funds over ten years,” said the George Washington report, concluding that “it is in each state’s fiscal self-interest to ensure an accurate 2020 Census count.”

A low count doesn’t just mean the state loses federal dollars. It can mean increased costs for state taxpayers, too. That’s because some federal programs like the Medicaid health care program call for states and the federal government to share program costs.

Each state’s share in Medicaid varies and is determined by its level of per capita income, with higher-income states having higher required match rates. That also means that each person missed in the census inflates a state’s per capita income, and thus leads to an increase in state tax dollars required for the state match.

To ensure that everyone is counted, the Census Bureau has been encouraging states to set up statewide complete count committees — a committee made up of a spectrum of leaders from state and local government, education, business, health care and community organizations — that can develop and implement an awareness campaign to encourage all households to respond to the census.

Census officials say such committees can be particularly helpful in targeting hard-to-count households. Some also fear that immigrant communities could be especially difficult to count this year because of the Trump administration’s plans to include a citizenship question in the census. Whether the question will be included is being contested in court.

As of the first of the year, 38 states and the District of Columbia had agreed to form complete count committees, and a number of states already have them up and running. Other states were still considering. But Nebraska, South Dakota and Kansas had all declined.

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“The Nebraska Governor’s Office informed us the State of Nebraska is fully committed to a complete and accurate census, but the complete count committee is not in their plans,” said Vicki McIntire, a manager in the Census Bureau regional office that includes Nebraska.

In Kansas, that decision is now changing. A spokesperson for Gov. Laura Kelly, a Democrat elected in November, told The World-Herald Tuesday the governor will reverse the decision of her Republican predecessor and launch a committee.

In Nebraska, Sen. Hansen said he became aware at a national conference last year that Nebraska had not formed a committee and decided to introduce his complete count bill, which is due for a hearing in Lincoln on Wednesday. Hansen said he was not aware that Nebraska was one of few states to decline.

Legislative Bill 436 would create a 23-member Nebraska Complete Count Commission to develop and help administer a statewide outreach strategy to encourage full participation in the census. It would be led by the secretary of state and include seven representatives of cities or counties, five from school districts, four representatives of organizations representing minorities, three business representatives and others, including a representative of the governor.

The cost of the committee is estimated to be about $110,000. That suggests that the committee would need to encourage only a handful of people to participate in the census to recoup committee costs.

Said Hansen: “To get our fair share of federal aid, it just seems to be a wise investment.”