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GAO: $478B in federal funds based on Census data

By Ed O'Keefe

Need even more reason to fill out your census forms next year? Try this:

The federal government's ten largest assistance programs used Census data to distribute an estimated $478.3 billion this year, according to a Government Accountability Office report released on Wednesday.

The sum represents roughly 84 percent of total federal assistance, GAO said. Medicaid, highway construction funding and federal education grants were the top federal assistance programs.

Democratic lawmakers requested the new GAO estimate on behalf of the Census Bureau and private groups working to promote participation in the 2010 Census.

Federal assistance programs use a variety of formulas to determine funding, though many rely at least partially on Census Bureau data. The agency collects population, housing and demographic information from respondents that complete decennial census questionnaires. The Census Bureau also conducts its annual American Community Survey and compiles data for the monthly Current Population Survey, which the Bureau of Labor Statistics uses to determine unemployment figures.

Here's the estimated obligations for FY '09 for the 10 largest federal assistance programs:

Program Estimated amount obligated
Medicaid $266.6 billion
Highway Planning and Construction $54.1 billion
State Fiscal Stabilization Fund -- Education State Grants $39.7 billion
Title I Grants to Local Education Agencies $24.5 billion
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Part B $22.8 billion
Temporary Aid for Needy Families $17.1 billion
Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers $16.6 billion
Community Development Block Grant $13.3 billion
Federal Transit Formula Grants Programs $13.0 billion
Children’s Health Insurance Program $10.6 billion

Source: GAO

The Census Bureau has partnered with thousands of civic and religious groups and corporations to promote participation in next year's national headcount. (Some even use Jesus, Mary, and Joseph as part of their outreach.) Wednesday's GAO report provides census advocates with new ammunition in their efforts to convince skeptical or scared Americans to complete census questionnaires.

In a joint statement, the Democratic lawmakers that requested the report stressed the importance of an accurate count and the aggressive census outreach efforts already underway.

"If you ignore the census form, it will have an effect on your neighborhood, your town or city, your county, and your state during the next ten years," said Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), who serves on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and has long concerned herself with census issues.

“This report highlights why it is so important that we get an accurate and inclusive census count next year,” said Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), who chairs the Senate subcommittee on the census.

“Without an accurate census count, some states will not get their fair share of federal dollars, which could handicap local governments and the citizens they serve for the next decade," Carper said.

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RELATED: Previous Federal Eye reporting on the Census

By Ed O'Keefe  | December 16, 2009; 10:00 AM ET
Categories:  Agencies and Departments, Census  
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