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Bradenton at bottom in federal funding

BRADENTON — When it comes to getting federal funding, it counts to be counted in the U.S. Census — a fact that is especially true for cash-starved Bradenton and Manatee County.

A Brookings Institution report has ranked Bradenton-Sarasota last out of 100 metropolitan areas in receiving federal dollars from programs based on census statistics.

The Bradenton-Sarasota-Venice area received about $231.1 million in 2008, or $336.05 per capita, compared to New York City-Northern New Jersey, the top ranking area in total funding with $40.2 billion, and Albany-Schenectady-Troy, N.Y., the highest per capita area at $5,217.08, according to the report,

Manatee County placed 192nd out of 200 counties in total funds, receiving about $119.1 million through census-driven formulas. Manatee placed 181st out of 200 counties with $377.27 in per capita spending.

The numbers for Sarasota County were similar, ranking 194th, with about $112 million, and $301.07, or 191st, per capita.

Andrew Reamer, a Metropolitan Policy Program Fellow at the Brookings Institution and author of the report, said the reports are important because they provide information to encourage people to participate in the census.

“No one has looked across all federal programs,” Reamer said. “Also, using local and state numbers makes it more realistic.”

He and his research assistant identified more than 200 federal programs that used census-related statistics, compared to the 133 the U.S. Census Bureau lists.

To promote participation in the 2010 census, which begins April 1, local communities are forming “Complete Count Committees,” a Census Bureau program.

City Councilman Harold Byrd is heading up the committee in Bradenton, and through community outreach and promotion, they hope to achieve a correct count.

“It’s very important to have an accurate census count,” said Bradenton Mayor Wayne Poston, “particularly for Bradenton.”

Poston said census data has shown the city has not lost any population in the last two estimates, which is beneficial in receiving federal grants, and with a true count it will hopefully show Bradenton has maintained or grew in population.

“In this tough economic situation, it’s important for those who are unemployed or under-employed,” the mayor said. “Especially when it comes to the medical and housing programs.

“Also, we want to be sure to get our fair share of our taxes back that we send to Washington,” Poston said.

The report from the Brookings Institution, a more than 90-year-old, private nonprofit organization that does independent research on government policy, pointed out the impact of the census’ accuracy, stating: “Each additional person included in the Census 2000 resulted in an annual additional Medicaid reimbursement to most states of between several hundred and several thousand dollars, depending on the state.”

For example, a table in the study showed that a 0.1 percent increase in the population of Florida added $792 per person to the total amount the state would have received in 2008.

Reamer said because the federal government sends much of the funding directly to the state for redistribution to local community, counties where state capitals are located may have higher total and per capita figures.

This disparity in data made analysis of the flow-through of federal dollars based on the census more difficult.

“Florida is making its decisions on where to spend the money based on census data,” he said.

It would be beneficial for the states and local governments if more resources were allocated to develop data, Reamer said.

“Relative to the amount of money at stake — more than a half-trillion dollars a year, for 10 years,” he said, “the federal government spends a relatively small amount on statistical gathering.”

Only about $14 billion was appropriated for the U.S. Census this year, Reamer said.

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