Posted on March 12, 2019
New York State Risks Losing Federal Funds Because of Poor Census Planning
“Really, it’s now or never.”
NY State hasn’t budgeted any money for #Census2020. And it’s coming down to the wire.
— Documented (@Documentedny) March 10, 2019
Ensuring an accurate count in the U.S. Census is critical for every locality in the U.S. It’s a crucial part of the process to receive hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funds for education, infrastructure, health, and other public programs, as well as determining the level of representation in Congress and the makeup of state legislatures. Officials in states have already allocated state funding to Census outreach efforts and to Complete Count Commissions (CCCs), which are state entities that quarterback the local Census campaigns. However, in New York, one of the country’s largest states with one of the most notoriously hard-to-count populations, no funds have been allocated, nor have official funding proposals been floated for outreach programs. After spending only $2 million in the 2010 census, the state suffered the consequences of an undercount, including the loss of two Congressional seats.
Experts point out that New York, and particularly New York City, checks all the boxes for census pitfalls: high population density with irregular housing arrangements, hundreds of spoke languages, and millions of immigrants, including those who are undocumented. Getting New Yorkers to respond to the Census is probably going to involve much more outreach through community organizations and local groups. The Fiscal Policy Institute released a report calling on the state government to provide $40 million in funding specifically for community-based outreach.
Chhaya CDC has begun mapping out its outreach efforts, but without an infusion of operating cash, it can’t get them off the ground. “The bottom line is you can’t do proper outreach without funding, because funding pays for staff. It’s a staffing issue,” says Annetta Seecharran, Chhaya’s executive director. Even if state money does arrive, it could be too late. “It takes organizations time to build up capacity, to find the right staff… People have to hear the information multiple times before they believe it, before it sticks. If you do that too close to the census date, you’re going to lose people,” she says.