Starting March 12th, 2020, the next big count of the US Population began. Folks who understand just how important the US Census is are doing all they can to rally whomever they can to help! An accurate count is critical, especially to LI, which already tends to get a lot less back in tax dollars than it invests.
An undercount would be DEVASTATING to folks living in poverty – and there are already WAY too many hungry children on LI -- but really, it affects EVERYONE, and not just because we are all better off when we work together to keep our most vulnerable populations from slipping through the cracks.
Said Rebecca Sanin of the Health & Welfare Council, who has been working even harder than usual to provide public education, rallying every sector on Long Island to realize their own self interest here and to help make sure we get these numbers right, “It is critically important that we recognize our power to shape the future of our own region and harness our great strengths. To do that, we have to make sure that our human capital is recognized and that EVERYONE is counted. We ALL need to be ambassadors.”
THE CENSUS COUNT IMPACTS FUNDING NYS RECEIVES FOR ALL SORTS OF THINGS THROUGH 2030!!! The American Communities Survey will provide all sorts of information in the meanwhile, but it cannot undue damage done by an undercount in the Census. Among other things, the US Census impacts Federal Funding and Other Considerations for:
- Road and other Infrastructure Funding
- Emergency Funding – Among other things, this is how FEMA knows what resources are needed in times of disaster!
- Schools - All districts are affected. Challenged ones get hit even harder. A 2010 undercount of children ages infant-4 in Wyandanch in 2010 continues to impact their school district funding and their planning – the much higher actual number of children meant they weren’t only short-funded, but didn’t have adequate space! They had to allocate precious funds to rent space in another district, rather than get dollars it deserved to invest in its own!
- PELL Grant and Student Loan Funding - Ok…so we run the risk that our schools will already be underfunded for a whole decade. Then, on top of it, we won’t get a fair share of college funding!
- Title I Grants, Special Education, Head Start
- Hospital Funding, Medicaid, Medicare, State Children’s Health Insurance, Health Care Centers
- School Breakfast Programs, WIC, Child Care Funding
- Affordable Housing Funding
- Government Representation - Undercounting by just .6% could cost NY 2 seats in Congress. We already lost 2 in 2010! This also effects the Electoral College
Plus, we all use this data to plan! Businesses use census data to determine where and what to invest. Non profits use it to plan programs and secure funding. Policy makers rely on it to govern.
Long Island has a lot at stake, and is generally the toughest nut to crack. Really, it’s critical we properly count the whole state. Those off-Island numbers mean enough to our region that folks like the LI Community Foundation are helping out beyond their normal borders. However, Suffolk and Nassau are the 4th and 5th hardest counties to count in New York State. The top three challenges are our neighbors in Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx.
Particularly difficult populations to count include young children, immigrant communities, people of color and seniors. This is partly because of the digital divide so the messages don’t reach everyone, partly because people are distrustful of government in the current climate, and partly because there simply isn’t adequate funding available for the outreach needed for the count. While we need to be mindful of scams and to help folks avoid them, we also need to make it clear: Title 13 of the US Code protects your information. Regardless of immigration status or living arrangements, the Census cannot share identifiable information. The data is anonymized and used solely for statistics. It cannot be used against you by any government agency or court.
As folks in poverty will be hit hardest – and we’re already experiencing the highest poverty rate since 1959! -- The Health & Welfare Council is working even harder than usual so it can help bridge this potential gap. They have built an army of Census ambassadors—a coalition that includes leaders in education, business, the nonprofit sector, faith-based leadership and much more. In addition, they are creating toolkits and other resources for various sectors. They are still seeking more of these folks to participate. Really though, EVERYONE can help by talking about this issue and getting involved!
To Learn More: Please visit www.hwcli.com/get-involved/2020-census/
You may also contact: Rebecca Sanin, President & CEO of the Health & Welfare Council at firstname.lastname@example.org; 516-505-4423
Update -- This article originally said the Census began in April. It has been updated to reflect that it actually officially started on March 12, 2020.