Here’s a great activity that will fill about 10 minutes of your time while you are confined at home: fill out your census form and submit online (my2020census.gov), by mail or phone. It is vitally important for our community because the census will set for the next 10 years the number of representatives we have in Congress as well as the number of electoral votes each state receives and will be used to draw state and local district lines.
It determines our share of federal and state funding for everything from public education to roads to senior centers, housing, Head Start, health care, police and community development block grants.
It will guide our local government – county and town – on their policies on everything from downtown revitalization to building new schools to affordable housing and is used by businesses to decide where to locate or relocate.
And here’s the thing: the Trump administration wants our community not to be counted. They want New York State to lose representation and funding.
So the Trump administration is doing nothing to promote the census (just compare to the extensive outreach campaign of the Obama administration in 2010) and may do little or nothing to send out the door knockers to homes where people have not sent in their census on their own.
Already, they are using the coronavirus to shut down activities, putting the operation behind schedule, despite the fact the deadline to conduct a census of all inhabitants (citizens or not) is set in the Constitution.
The first bit of gamesmanship, to put in a citizenship question in order to discourage non-citizens and particularly undocumented individuals from being counted, was thrown out by Supreme Court. But the damage has been done.
The terror of ICE raids and swift deportations of people who have been in the country for decades and have American-citizen children, and the willingness of the Trump Administration to ignore laws, has many skeptical of the law protecting the privacy of the census.
Just as Trump has sabotaged Obamacare, he is doing everything possible to suppress the census. Trump has left the Director position vacant and failed to fully fund census operations forcing the bureau to cut costs. The number of Census Bureau field offices in New York dropped from 35 in 2010 to 21 in 2020.
In the absence of any federal support, the state and county has taken up the task.
“As we prepare to undertake our nation’s 24th Census, New York is standing up to the federal government’s intimidation tactics and attempts to discourage immigrants and other communities from filling out the Census questionnaire,” Gov. Cuomo said at the opening of his Census Conference. “This Census comes at a divisive and ugly time when the social fabric of our nation is being stressed and tested in ways I’ve never seen before. New York is the capital of diversity, and during these difficult times, our State’s voice is vital. And this census counts and calibrates the voice of New York, so we need to make sure it is heard loud and clear. This conference is a big part of our efforts to inform all New Yorkers about the Census and engage hard-to-reach communities, helping to ensure every single New Yorker is counted and the Empire State is accurately represented at the federal level.”
The state is spending up to $70 million to support the census and enlisting dozens of state agencies and authorities to do outreach, including the departments of Labor, Motor Vehicles, and Veterans Affairs, plus CUNY and SUNY. State employees will provide translation services for more than 200 languages.
The state has also worked to add 225,000 addresses to the Census Bureau’s Master Address file. And because the 2020 census will be conducted primarily online (a goal of 80 percent responses which will be even more crucial in light of the coronavirus pandemic), New York invested $500 million to leverage millions more from the private sector to expand high-speed internet to all New Yorkers.
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran has also been aggressive in promoting the census. She launched Nassau’s Complete Count Committee, comprised of more than 30 nonprofit, labor, faith-based groups and community organizations tasked with developing a plan to achieve a full count and dramatically improve on 2010 when only 77 percent of Nassau County residents sent back their U.S. Census Bureau questionnaires.
During this public health crisis, “getting the message out about the census has never been more important,” noted Jordan Carmon, senior advisor to Curran. It also underscores the importance of being counted. “We are seeing how important it is our hospitals get robust funding, ventilators, proper amount of testing. It only emphasizes why it is so important everybody fill out – so our county has the resilience it needs for the next 10 years.
“Long Island being undercounted in the 2020 Census would mean less funding for our schools, roads, health care services, and law enforcement for the next decade,” said Curran. “We simply cannot afford an undercount. That’s why I established Nassau County’s Complete Count Committee. Nassau is fully mobilized in our efforts to ensure we are fully counted. We are engaging our immigrant communities, and all of our hard-to-count communities early to educate, assure, and motivate them to be counted. Long Island residents know that we send more in tax dollars to Albany and Washington D.C. than we get back in funding. The 2020 Census is our chance to get it right and to ensure we’re getting our fair share for the next ten years.”
With as many as 2 million deaths projected from the coronavirus pandemic in this country alone, don’t wait to be included in the count.