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Census jackpot: $500 billion a year in U.S. aid

By Hibah Yousuf, staff reporter

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Federal programs will dole out more than $500 billion a year over the next decade based on data collected through the 2010 Census, according to a study released Tuesday.

The Census Bureau began hand-delivering questionnaires in rural areas last week, and most U.S. households will start receiving the forms in the mail next week. The bureau will use the completed questionnaires from an estimated 134 million households to determine the nation's headcount, which is critical to the process of allocating federal assistance dollars.

The Brookings Institution said 215 federal programs distributed almost $447 billion in fiscal 2008 based on the census data collected in 2000. More than 80% of that money was divvied up among states and the nation's capital, and mostly funded Medicaid payments, and highway planning and construction programs, according to the Washington-based liberal think tank.

About $21.5 billion was allocated to metro areas for affordable housing vouchers.

"Since 2008, federal assistance spending has increased substantially, in part because of the massive stimulus package of 2009," said Andrew Reamer, Brookings Institution policy analyst and author of the study, in a statement. "State governments stand to gain the greatest fiscal benefit from increased census participation, as a fifth of their revenues come from federal grants."

To encourage more people to answer the questionnaire and return it by mail, the Census Bureau is spending $133 million, or about $1 per household, in national advertising campaigns. The bureau estimates it will save $85 million in taxpayer money for each percentage point increase in the 2010 Census mail-back response rate by avoiding spending $56 going door-to-door to each unresponsive household to collect data.

Winners and losers: The Brookings report said states with high income levels and those with high poverty rates, based on census data, generally receive the most federal assistance for each person.

In fiscal year 2008, Washington, D.C., received the most aid per person at $4,656, followed by Vermont, Alaska, New York and Massachusetts, which each received between $2,100 and $2,900 a resident.

The lowest amount went to Nevada, at just $742 per person, according to the study.

Among the 100 largest metropolitan areas, upstate New York's Capital District, which includes Albany, Schenectady and Troy, received the most per capita at $5,217, while the Florida metropolitan area that includes Bradenton, Sarasota and Venice received $336 per resident.

Of the 200 largest counties, Suffolk County in Massachusetts received the highest amount in federal funding per person at $6,032, and Collin County in Texas received the least at $182.19 per resident. To top of page

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