Amid pressure from Maryland lawmakers, state officials are releasing $900,000 in grant funds aimed at ensuring every resident is counted in the 2020 census.
Maryland Department of Planning Secretary Rob McCord announced Tuesday that the earmarked money would be split into thirds, following input from the newly formed Complete Count Committee.
Democratic lawmakers on the committee pressed Gov. Larry Hogan’s administration in September to develop a spending plan for the $900,000.
Earlier in the year, the state planning department distributed $4.1 million in matching grants to local jurisdictions and nonprofits in various counties throughout the state. However, some lawmakers expressed concerns that towns and counties, including those in historically undercounted jurisdictions, had missed out on the funds.
U.S. Sens. Benjamin L. Cardin and Chris Van Hollen sent a letter last week to the governor asking for a plan.
Van Hollen wrote on Twitter Tuesday that Hogan’s move “is a step forward," adding that he is "eager for the full funds to be distributed for Census outreach.
“This is critical for many of our historically undercounted and underfunded jurisdictions,” he wrote.
In a statement, Van Hollen said Tuesday he will be monitoring the state’s progress closely.
“I urge them to make good on this pledge and distribute these funds immediately – as they’re already coming a day late and a dollar short,” he said.
About $300,000 will be distributed to the committee, which the Hogan administration formed this year and tasked with getting the word out about the census.
Del. Jheanelle Wilkins, who serves on the committee, said in an email she was glad the funds are being released but felt the delays have jeopardized the state’s ability to ensure everyone is counted.
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“We only have one chance every 10 years to count everyone, and we have to get this right,” Wilkins said.
Another $300,000 will go to the Maryland Municipal League, which distributes funds to municipalities.
The remaining grant money will be split evenly between Allegany, Calvert, Caroline, Cecil, Charles, Dorchester, Garrett, Kent, Queen Anne’s, St. Mary’s, Somerset, Talbot, Washington, Wicomico and Worcester counties, with each receiving $20,000.
In a statement, Cardin said it is “imperative that Governor Hogan distribute these funds as quickly as possible, and to the communities that have experienced the worst undercount historically.”
“Far too many Maryland jurisdictions are behind in important planning and outreach because these funds were not made available sooner,” he said.
The census will be conducted in April with the goal of counting every person living in the country. Census data is used to determine how much money the federal government spends in different communities and how many seats each state gets in Congress.
Baltimore Sun reporters Pamela Wood and Luke Broadwater contributed to this article.