Lawmakers and Advocates Call on New York Not to be a Penny Wise and a Pound Foolish in Lack of Planning for Problem Filled 2020 US Census

The 2010 Census undercount cost New York two congressional districts and hundreds of millions of dollars annually in federal aid, lawmakers call for state resources and passage of legislation to create the 2020 Complete Count Commission
January 23, 2018

Albany, New York – Today, Assemblyman Marcos Crespo, Chair of the Assembly Task Force on Demographics and Reapportionment, was joined by good government groups, anti-poverty advocates and other legislators to call on the State Senate to pass legislation (A.4348/S.5809) which will begin the process to prepare New York State for a proper count during the 2020 Census. Undercounts during the 2000 and 2010 Census have cost New York two congressional seats and a loss of tens of billions in federal aid for a range of programs from education to housing to transportation. The legislation begins a multi-year planning process to ensure that state, local and nonprofit sectors are better prepared to ensure a proper count and will prevent future funding losses, including the now projected loss of one more congressional member due to a combination of slow population growth and chronic undercounting of New York State residents.

According to Crespo, “The 2020 Census is shaping up to be a real problem. Not only is the Federal government underfunding the national count by over $5 billion but the next Census will rely heavily on the use of the Internet by requiring state residents to complete their Census forms online. For many communities with limited access to the Internet and computers and for the elderly and disabled this process spells a disaster for our state.”

“There are no do-overs in Census 2020,” stated Roberto Frugone, National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund Northeast Director. “We have one chance to get it right. If we fail to bring Latinos out of the shadows to get counted, the Latino community and all New Yorkers will lose out on access to equitable political representation and billions of dollars in federal government assistance.”

“The work to safeguard New York from another disastrous U.S. Census undercount in 2020 requires state financial support now, to help local governments pay for the Local Update of Census Addresses Program,” said Assemblyman David Buchwald (D-Westchester). “Because local governments play a critical role in ensuring that everyone is counted, now is the time to provide state funds to make sure localities get this critical work done on time.”

Assemblyman Luis Sepulveda stated, “With the new federal tax law negatively impacting the state's revenue flow, as well as dealing with the Majority's grip on Congress, it is even more critical that we strengthen our voice in Congress and do everything we can to assure an accurate count in the upcoming U.S. Census.”

“With rampant growth in child poverty rates and among our elderly and families, New York can ill afford another census undercount. It has already cost us tens of billions in lost federal aid which could have been used to strengthen our communities and economy. It has also cost us political clout in Washington as we continue to lose members of Congress as other states gain members. My legislation begins the process to ensure a proper count and bring billions in needed aid to communities across New York,” stated Assemblyman Crespo.

“Each person not counted by the U.S Census costs New York State $3,054 dollars in lost federal funding. Now multiply this by the more than 700,000 New Yorkers not counted and what we find is that annually our State loses $1.5 billion in federal aid for a range of programs which help our children, our families, our senior citizens with their education, their housing needs, their medical needs and more,” added Crespo. “And this figure could be much higher because New York State has done little to ensure state and local level participation in ensuring a complete count.”

Ron Deutsch, Executive Director of the Fiscal Policy Institute declared, "Given the likelihood of major federal cuts to entitlement programs it's very important that we get an accurate Census count to ensure all available federal resources come to NYS. We must ensure that we prevent another undercount during the 2020 Census and Assemblymen Crespo's bill is the right solution to the problem. We need to start the process now and dedicate needed resources to the proposed commission,"

At a conservative estimate, the loss of $1.5 billion each year for a decade between 2010 and 2020, New York will have lost $15 billion dollars in federal aid provided through 75 programs which are apportioned and distribute to states and localities using statistics gathered by the decennial census. An undercount guarantees not only lose in federal aid but with population shifts in the 50 states New York has lost and will continue to lose seats in Congress.

The legislation, which has passed the New York State Assembly for two consecutive years, creates a 16 member planning body called the 2020 Complete Count Commission. It is responsible for putting together an action plan for state, local and nonprofit agencies to ensure a complete count. The commission must produce three reports to document the plan and progress on implementing it prior to the 2020 Census. The commission is also required to recommend state funding levels to implement their proposed action plans prior to the enactment of budgets for FY 2018-19 through FY 2019-20.

Crespo remarked, “In 2009, NYS appropriated $2 million dollars to help with public awareness on the importance of the 2010 Census. That amount translated into roughly a ten cents investment in every New Yorker. That low level of investment and attention given to the important functions of the Census led to the documented undercount. This mistake cannot be repeated.”

The undercount of the 2010 Census was very evident in New York City. There, over 8 million people living in only about 305 square miles were told that the City had only grown by about 100,000 residents even though over the previous 10 years over 1.25 million births had been recorded by the Bureau of Vital Statistics. Simultaneously, there had been only about 500,000 deaths during that period. The U.S. Census told New York State that it had only grown by 164,000 residents. Upstate New York covers almost 47,000 square miles and has over 9 million of the State’s 19.4 million residents. “It is obvious that if an undercount has occurred in a smaller and highly dense populated area that Upstate New York has probably been subject to a worse undercount,” declared Crespo.

Karla Digirolamo, CEO of the New York State Community Action Association, stated “New York's Community Action network of federally designated anti-poverty agencies serve every county and borough in the state - leveraging just over $50,000,000 in Community Services Block Grant funds into nearly $845,000,000. This funding used to provide resources and services to low income people. These funds are private and public funds, and much of them rely in one way or another on census data. We use census data to assess community needs as well as to access funding.”

She added, “Additionally, Community Action is deeply committed to empowering low income people and ensuring their voices are heard. Community Action Agencies are required by federal law to include low income representatives on their boards – a minimum of one third of board members must represent low income people. Community Action encourages low income people to engage in our democracy at all levels – from our agency boards to school boards, from local to state and federal office – we believe people should be fairly represented and heard. How can we ensure every voice is heard if everyone is not counted? Community Action supports any action that results in more people completing their Census surveys, more people being counted.”

Maria Alvarez, Executive Director of the NY StateWide Senior Action Council, said, “We salute Assemblyman Crespo for proposing a much needed investment to achieve an accurate census count. With missed opportunities to count residents, including the outreach provided by community based not for profit organizations that specialize in case finding, our state faces diminished representation in Congress and diminished resources. Federal Administration on Aging funds are distributed to states based on the number of older New Yorkers and provide essential resources to support aging with dignity. Let's make sure that all are counted, and New York gets its fair share of federal aid for aging, human services and other vital programs.”

Blair Horner, Executive Director of NYPIRG, stated "Getting the census right is critically important," said Blair Horner, NYPIRG Executive Director. "This legislation will help ensure that New York's population number is as accurate as it can be. Assemblymember Crespo deserves credit for giving the state a running head start."

According to Jeffrey M. Wice, Fellow at the Rockefeller Institute of Government/SUNY, "Unless Congress steps in and increases funding for the census, the 2020 headcount may come up woefully short. As the Census Bureau fights for federal funds to fulfill its mission, it will be up to our states and localities to make sure the count is complete as possible. That’s why this legislation is so important.

He continued, “The proposed unnecessary and intrusive citizenship question recently requested by the Justice Department also has the potential to give many people pause about participating in the census altogether. Citizen and immigrant households alike may not participate fully and honestly in any Census Bureau surveys due to fear about how their responses will be used by government agencies. That’s unacceptable and would undercut census counting in New York.”

“To compound this problem, the US Census announced late last year that New York was in line to lose another congressional district based on slow population growth and rapid growth in other parts of the country. The need for a complete and accurate count and the need for New York State to begin the planning process now for the 2020 Census is very clear,” Stated Crespo.

“Manhattan has over 58,000 residents per square mile alone. While huge sections of Upstate have an average density of only 50-100 people per square mile. We have areas like Hamilton County which only has 3 residents per square mile,” added Crespo. “We need to understand that our geography and the varying density of population provide us with avenues for a proper count and obstacles for a proper count. We need to make the 2020 Complete Count Commission a reality this year. If we fail to plan properly for the 2020 Census, we will have failed to prevent the loss of billions more in lost annual federal aid and slow the decline of influence of our shrinking congressional delegation.”