March 5, 2019 — Members of our staff joined over 200 members of the New York Counts 2020 coalition in Albany to advocate for funding to ensure that all New Yorkers are counted in the upcoming 2020 census.
An accurate census count in 2020 has implications for all New Yorkers. At stake is federal funding, representation in Congress, accurate planning for schools and roads, and a basic understanding of who we are as New Yorkers that is used by governments, businesses, and researchers to make important and far-reaching decisions.
Close to 25% of New York State residents were not counted by the mail-in census in 2010, resulting in 2 lost congressional seats for the state and a loss of funding for critical programs. According to the latest estimates, 36% of New York State residents live in hard-to-count neighborhoods, including our own neighborhood of East Harlem. Populations that tend to be undercounted include: young children, immigrants, renters, people with limited English, people of color, low-income residents, young parents, Muslims, Native Americans, and homeless residents.
The 2020 census poses additional challenges that may make even more people harder to count. This year’s census will primarily be conducted online, potentially excluding people with limited access to internet. Also, a new question asking for citizenship status is under consideration by the Supreme Court. With or without the citizenship question, experts believe that it’s suggestion has already had a chilling effect, making many fearful of responding to the census.
Community-based organizations are uniquely positioned to assist and reach the hardest-to-count groups because of their earned trust and cultural and language competence. The NY Counts 2020 coalition is advocating for $40 million, based on a report from the Fiscal Policy Institute, to support census outreach by community-based organizations, with the goal of ensuring that New York State gets a fair and accurate census count.
When hard-to-count populations are missed in the census, the whole state suffers.
Why should a fair and accurate census count matter to all New Yorkers?
• Federal funds for health care, housing, roads and infrastructure, and other resources, accounts for a third of State spending. An undercount of New York’s population may result in significant funding reductions.
• New York may lose one House of Representatives seat, and could lose two with a low count. The census is the only population count used for redistricting of Congressional, state, and local district lines.
• Our quality of life depends on an accurate census. City planning agencies use census data to decide where to build new infrastructure and provide community services such as roads, public transit, hospitals, health centers, schools, and senior centers.
• A robust economy depends on an accurate census. Businesses use the census to make decisions about where to create new jobs, build new offices, and invest in communities.
Photo above from The New York Immigration Coalition.