The Buffalo Niagara region has nearly two billion reasons to fill out those federal census forms arriving in the mail next week.
More than $1.94 billion was distributed to Erie and Niagara counties in 2008 alone based on results of the U.S. census, according to a new report that for the first time details the financial benefits of participating in the decennial head count.
The 2010 census kicks into gear this month, and its outcome will steer a large portion of federal funding for the next 10 years.
"There's an enormous amount of money being allocated by census statistics," said Andrew Reamer, the study's author. "The goal of our report is to encourage participation in the census to get a more accurate population count, so that all areas can receive their fair share of federal assistance."
The Buffalo Niagara region does seem to get its fair share.
Per person, the area receives more census-driven aid than a majority of the other big metro regions in the country, according to the report being released today by the Brookings Institute, a Washington-based think tank.
Much of this federal money benefits poorer communities, which is one reason that the Buffalo Niagara region does well.
"Different metro areas get different returns," Reamer said. "Buffalo's is higher relative to other areas."
Every 10 years, community leaders across the country appeal to residents to participate in the census. The figures determine the number of seats each state gets in the House of Representatives and are the basis for federal funding formulas that support numerous programs.
However, the tie between the census and federal dollars has always been sort of an abstract concept, because it is unclear who is getting exactly how much for what.
But Reamer, a fellow at Brookings, compiled that data for the fiscal year 2008, which showed that 215 federal programs relied at least 90 percent on census statistics to determine the distribution of $446.7 billion in federal grants and loans.
More than 33 percent was distributed nationwide for housing, transportation, education, employment training and community development programs, the study shows. The bulk of the money, however, funded health programs, like Medicaid.
That was the case in the Buffalo Niagara region, too. Close to 75 percent of the nearly $2 billion distributed to the region in 2008 was for Medicaid.