Florida is Losing Billions – It Could Get Worse

As the Florida Legislature speeds forward with creating the 2024-25 state budget, the only official duty required of them annually, it’s important to remember they have $2.1 billion less money this year — and every year up to 2030 – for the unmet needs of millions of Floridians, according to a Florida TaxWatch report. These needs span child care, health, justice, foster care, and more including emergency management, transportation, the environment and education to name a few.

The reason for the annual $2.1 billion shortfall? Florida practically ignored the importance of the once-every-ten years Census count of Floridians in 2020, delivering the largest undercount in Florida’s history.

No money was appropriated by the 2018-20 Legislature to support an accurate count and the executive branch was among the last in the nation to form a statewide Census Committee — and only after pressure was exerted in the media by a range of bi-partisan and non-partisan organizations. The outcome was the largest undercount in Florida’s history. Federal funding for a wide variety of supports important to children and families are dependent on accurate Census data.

“Florida likes to brag about its management of money in numerous press releases, but this is preventable mismanagement,” said Roy Miller, president of American Children’s Campaign. “Personally, and this is true for every Floridian who pays federal income tax, it’s quite upsetting to see the dollars we work our tails off to earn sent to Washington and then not come back to benefit Florida families. It’s even more disheartening when we hear about parents not being able to find affordable child care, or children falling through the cracks of child welfare or health care, and special needs kids on waiting lists. So much pain and suffering could’ve been avoided.”

Florida’s portrayal of federal funds as the devil with too many strings attached is more rhetoric than fact. The facts, stated clearly by the National Association of State Budget Officers, are federal funds accounted for 40 of every 100 dollars in total state expenditures in 2023 – up from 38.6% in 2021. A PolitiFact report about the Governor’s recommended budget determined the federal portion over the entire budget accounts for roughly one out of every three dollars.


Children Ages 0 – 4 Slip through the Cracks

Of particular concern to American Children’s Campaign is that Florida once again also had one of the largest undercount rates of children aged 0-4, recent data shows. An estimated 106,244 Florida children aged 0-4 were not counted in the 2020 Census, an undercount of 9.3%, which is the worst in the nation. It’s also 1.6% higher than the undercount in 2010. For comparison, the average national net undercount rate for young children was just 5.4%.

Equally concerning is that two of the top 10 counties in the nation with the largest net undercount of young children are in Florida. Miami-Dade County and Broward County, Florida’s two largest counties by population, also have the largest undercount of young children, with a net undercount rate of 16% and 12%, respectively.

States with high Hispanic populations such as Florida had the highest net undercount rates, further disenfranchising vulnerable children. Nationally, 8.6% of Hispanic children aged 0-4 were not counted in the 2020 Census.


Looking Ahead

The Census Bureau is continuing to research the undercount to improve future Census data collection methods. By improving data collection methods, children in complex living situations could finally be counted where they might have been previously missed.

In Florida, the Florida Philanthropic Network partnered with the University of North Florida to dig deeper into Census data at the county level. This will be especially helpful in guiding local outreach efforts for the 2030 Census.


How You Can Help


Unfortunately, there is no way to have a do-over for the 2020 Census data, but you can improve the next count. First, please share this Top Story with your personal and professional networks. You can bring more public attention to the importance of everyone being counted in the Census. By spreading awareness, a potential undercount in the 2030 Census could be mitigated.

If you’d like to learn more about the impact of the Census – and the undercount – in our daily lives, visit some of the resources listed in the References section below.



United States Census Bureau


O’Hare, W.P. (2023). State Undercount Rates for Young Children in the 2020 Census. Count All Kids Campaign.


O’Hare, W.P. (2023). County-level Coverage Rates of Young Children in the 2020 Census: The National-Level Data Do Not Tell the Full Story. Count All Kids Campaign.


Jensen, E. (2022, March 10). Census Bureau Expands Focus on Improving Data for Young Children. Census.gov.