BAY COUNTY, Fl, (WJHG/WECP) - According to the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly one-million children were not counted in the 2010 census, and more than 71,000 in Florida. That means a loss of millions of dollars for children's programs. Now two well-known local politicians are working together to make sure Bay County's children are not left out of this year's count.
Two local former politicians, one a Republican the other a Democrat, came together to make sure kids are counted in this year's census. (U.S. Census Bureau)
Steve Southerland served as a U.S. Congressman from 2011 to 2015. He's a Republican. Scott Clemons served as State Representative and Panama City Mayor. He's a Democrat. The two have been friends for a long time and while they may differ in some aspects, they are of the same mind when it comes to helping children.
"Steve and I come from different parties. But one thing as friends we found out that we share in common is a passion for improving the lives of children," said Clemons.
"We have worked together on children's issues for years," said Southerland.
So they're joining forces to urge everyone to take part in this year's census.
"The reason that we're involved in Count all Kids is 10 years ago we found that there was a significant undercount of children. That resulted in somewhere around a loss of about $600 million going to children's programs around the state of Florida, so we want to make sure that doesn't happen again," said Clemons.
"A lot of those dollars flow through our school district, so breakfast programs, lunch programs, after school programs. So the schools are critical but if the children are not counted, then the federal dollars to not flow," emphasized Southerland.
One reason they are making this push is, so far, Bay County has not responded well when it comes to filling out the Census and sending it in.
"To give your viewers some perspective: Nationally the response rate is about 59%," said Clemons. "In Florida, the response is about 56% but in Bay County, it's only 41%.
"This is not a Democrat issue, this is not a Republican issue, this is a North Florida issue," said Southerland. "I just want to be like Scott in that we are both trying to warn people please, please be smart. Count yourself in the census, count your children in the census because the dollars that affect children's programs really matter."
There are several ways to fill out the census. A form should have come in the mail, but you can also fill it out online.
It's very easy to do and doesn't take but about 5 minutes.
Copyright 2020 WJHG. All rights reserved.