Census may help when divvying up the pie

By Brandon Martin

The amount of gridlock in Congress over relief legislation for the coronavirus (COVID-19) has been infamous, so far, as primary and general election chess moves are made by legislators.

Discussions of the next round of federal spending sparked a public debate about the “givers” and “takers” when it comes to the national purse. The back-and-forth between elected officials has an undertone that is a particularly fascinating since, in addition to 2020 being an election year, it is also a census year.

So where does Virginia land on the scale? According to an analysis done by WalletHub, the Commonwealth is the 43rd most federally dependent state.

To calculate the rankings, WalletHub compared the 50 states across two key dimensions, “State Residents’ Dependency” and “State Government’s Dependency.”

The dimensions were then evaluated on three metrics on a weighted scale. The first metric–return on taxes paid to the federal government–was triple weighted and used to form “State Residents’ Dependency.” This metric was calculated by dividing federal funding in U.S. dollars by IRS collections in U.S. dollars.

The second metric–share of federal jobs– also helped determine the residents’ dependency index and received full weight. The government dependency index was determined solely by federal funding as a share of state revenue. This metric reflects the proportion of state revenue that comes from the federal government in the form of intergovernmental aid.

Following these parameters, Virginia received the third highest amount of federal contracts in the country, while only ranking fifth in the amount of loans received.

By combining the states ranking of 11th in “State Residents’ Dependency” and 49th in “State Governments’ Dependency,” Virginia landed close to the bottom of most federally dependent states.

“There is no ‘fairest’ way to redistribute resources among states and localities,” said William Shobe, director of Center for Economic & Policy Studies at the University of Virginia. “We have to ask what outcome we hope to achieve by redistributing resources. The key to redistribution is that it makes the opportunity to thrive more equal.”

He said that redistribution that emphasizes opportunity and mobility can be accomplished through block grants, sometimes by targeted spending and other times by regulations or standards of performance.

Depending on the outcome of the 2020 Census, federally allocated funds may shift drastically over the next decade, which could bring major funding changes to some programs.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Virginia received $17,629,955,000 in 2017 federal funds for Medicare; $4,811,942,000 for Medicaid; $1,115,537,000 for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program; $592,279,000 for highway planning and construction; $250,944,000 for the National School Lunch Program; $40,412,000 for the Unemployment Insurance Administration; and $34,355,000 in Community Development Block and Entitlement Grants.

So regardless if you see the state as a “giver” or “taker,” one thing is for sure–participation in this year’s census will go a long way in determining that status.

Those who haven’t done so already, can still fill out their questionnaire online, by phone or by mail. Beginning Aug. 11, census takers will interview homes that haven’t responded to the 2020 Census to help make sure everyone is counted.

Find out more at https://2020census.gov/en.html.

Virginia is the 43rd most federally dependent state, according to WalletHub, which calculated the rankings by comparing the 50 states across two key dimensions: “State Residents’ Dependency” and “State Government’s Dependency.”



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