The Census 2020 figures were released late last week, and while the City did grow, it barely fell short of counting enough residents to hit the 50,000 mark – which would have made Everett an Entitlement Community and unlocks millions of dollars in federal and state funding.
Officially, Everett came in at 49,075, which made it one of only two communities in the state that were close to, but didn’t make, the 50,000 population goal – the other being New Bedford. Still, that did represent a growth of 8,288 persons since the 2010 Census, but it just wasn’t quite enough to unlock more benefits.
City Clerk Sergio Cornelio, who helped lead a Complete Count Census team in one of the hardest pandemic environments, said it was a hard pill to swallow to come so close, but not make the mark for an Entitlement Community. The official number, even if it were 50,000, is largely considered a gross undercounting of the real population – which some estimate to be as high as 65,000 based on school population and other indicators.
“We did have a top 12 highest increase in the state for our Census numbers,” he said. “It’s still just a bit disappointing not to hit the 50,000 mark. I’ve reached out to our local state delegation to ask them to reach out to our federal delegation and see if we can get help. Not only are we a hard to count community, but we were a hard to count community that was ravaged by COVID-19 while we were trying to count. And still, we almost got to the 50,000 mark. I don’t think it was us not doing what we needed to do with all our partners, but COVID-19 made it hard for us to get the numbers. It’s a hard pill to swallow, but I’m looking into what can be done.”
Mayor Carlo DeMaria noted that the City ran a vigorous counting campaign for more than 18 months – even during COVID-19 and working with many diverse partners to attempt to reach everyone. However, he said fear of the federal government probably prevented a lot of people from wanting to be counted, in the end.
“The City of Everett worked vigorously with our local nonprofits and community partners in an attempt to have every resident counted,” he said. “We ran an outreach campaign for nearly a year in an attempt to grow our census numbers Unfortunately, due to what we believe was fear and apprehension of the Federal government having resident’s information the city of Everett came up short of the 50,000 mark which will now, in turn, result in the loss of significant funding. I am hopeful that our next opportunity to count our residents yields a more accurate result of the City.”
The 50,000 mark is key for small cities, because it is the dividing line between Entitlement Communities and non-Entitlement. Being an Entitlement Community means that one gets direct funding from the federal government and from federal funds directed through the state. It also means that federal formulas for funding release more money to the communities for schools, roads, infrastructure and community block grants. Not hitting 50,000 people, Cornelio said, means the loss of millions of dollars over the next 10 years.
“It’s not just a number, it’s a number tied to much bigger things in terms of funding,” he said. “By not getting 50,000, that means the loss of tens of millions of dollars over the next decade…I think the federal government could have done a better job helping us through it and expanding the time to finish it. Another couple weeks and we could have gotten it.”
He said Everett does have a good case for getting some sort of reprieve as they are one of only two small cities that came very close and are also deemed hard to count communities.
“It’s only two communities in Massachusetts and we’re one of them,” he said. “How much can it affect the bottom line of the country to help these communities that deserve this funding?”
Sen. Sal DiDomenico said everyone locally had the resources and tried their hardest, but were up against a wall. He said he has reached out to the federal delegation to see if anything can be done.
“After so much hard work by many organizations, officials and residents we made tremendous strides to increase our Census count,” he said. “This number is critical for funding that is directed to Everett. This is why I secured additional resources in the State budget so we could reach hard to count communities like Everett. I want to thank everyone for the huge amount of work put into this effort. Coming up just shy of the critical 50,000 threshold is disappointing and I have reached out to our Federal delegation to help with that very small gap. This has very serious implications for federal and state dollars and we could be losing millions of dollars in direct aid.” The next counting of the U.S. Census will not being until mid-2029