South Florida could lose political power and receive a smaller share of federal funding after new census figures show Palm Beach, Broward, and Miami-Dade counties grew more slowly than other parts of the state.

This could have far-reaching consequences, as census data are used by organizations and local governments to compete for federal and state contracts and programs.

Florida generally grew slower than many people expected – and just added a new convention center. Many thought the state would get two.

The data shows that growth in South Florida was slower compared to the rest of the state, which surprised some researchers as South Florida has historically been a political powerhouse and an economic engine.

According to the census data, central Florida and southwest Florida outpaced southern Florida population growth.

“We were never the center of the state, but we were the center of attention. Now the center of the state is becoming the center of attention,” said Dr. Maria Ilcheva, the assistant director of the Florida International University Metropolitan Center – which was part of the local census committee.

Knowing the ramifications, local leaders spent much of 2020 urging the people of South Florida to fill out census forms and be counted.

“We’ll never get the money we make if we don’t know how many people live in our city,” said Miami Mayor Francis Suarez in 2020.

“The dollar amount we are leaving on the table could be $ 30 billion over ten years,” former County Commissioner Steve Bovo said at the time.

Ilcheva provided NBC 6 with numbers from the US Census Bureau’s population estimate program that showed that South Florida has grown 10.8% over the past decade. Central Florida, including Orange, Lake, Polk, and Osceola counties, grew 23.7%. Southwest Florida, including Counties Lee and Collier, grew 22.9%. Northeast Florida, including Saint John, Nassau, and Duval counties, grew 16.3%.

“Whether it is early childhood education, Pell Grants, student aid or financial support is an essential part of it, as is health care,” said Ilcheva.

According to Ilcheva, the expansion in central Florida has two reasons: lower cost of living and more job opportunities for newcomers to the area.

Ilcheva looked deeper into the numbers and said another thing had struck me. Native Floridians leave Miami-Dade County. The new growth is coming from outside the US.

It is important to keep in mind that more detailed information will be released in August and December, which will include more information on poverty, demographics and family situations.