The Alhariris, a New American Family, sit together in their Syracuse home

Census 2020: Preventing an Undercount

Giving Voice Fall 2019: Cover Story

Next spring, the U.S. Census Bureau will once again undergo the immense task of counting every living resident in the country.

Census data informs lawmakers on policy decisions that impact the lives of 330 million Americans. This includes the allocation of more than $800 billion in annual federal funding and the reapportionment of seats in the House of Representatives. It is estimated that for every one person not counted, communities lose $1,000 in funding per year toward hospitals, schools, transportation, parks and nonprofit organizations.

That explains why census numbers are particularly influential on those whom the Census Bureau considers ‘hard-to-count populations,’ which include some of the country’s most vulnerable residents—immigrants, the elderly, young children, those living in rural areas and low-income households.

According to Syracuse-based InterFaith Works, refugees, those with limited English proficiency and elderly residents are undercounted due to lack of trust, culture differences, language barriers and illiteracy. Many simply do not understand the importance of being counted.

The digital divide is also likely to play a role in limiting responses. For the first time, the Census Bureau is primarily collecting responses using an online system, leaving households with no computer or adequate internet access at serious risk of being undercounted.

The Community Foundation is focusing funding on efforts that ensure all Central New York residents are counted. Tomorrow’s Neighborhoods Today (TNT) received a $20,000 grant to educate city residents on the importance of census completion. The New York Immigration Coalition received $10,000 to support the Local Update of Census Addresses (LUCA) process. A $10,000 grant was awarded to the City of Syracuse to hire a Complete Count Committee coordinator. And InterFaith Works received $15,000 to conduct education workshops and install an on-site digital census completion kiosk. We also contributed $10,000 to the New York State Census Equity Fund, a pooled fund that awards grants across the state to provide education, advocacy and technical assistance.

Not accounting for every individual living in our region could have a devastating impact on Central New Yorkers for years to come. An undercount disparity deprives underserved communities of political power, government resources and private sector investment. We plan to continue our funding—through April of 2020 when the count begins—toward efforts that encourage hard-to-count populations to complete the census.

WHAT YOU CAN DO:

  • Volunteer for the City of Syracuse Complete Count Committee
  • Become a Census Enumerator
  • Complete your own 2020 Census in April!

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