NEW YORK — New Yorkers must complete the 2020 Census, officials said, as the state lags behind in completing the questionnaire, which determines federal representation in Washington and funding for essential services.
State Attorney General Letitia James; U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.; U.S. Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-10; and other New York City census administrators urged New Yorkers to visit 2020census.gov and complete the census. About 61% of state residents have responded since it was first mailed out in April — lower than the average national response rate of 64.6%.
“Every single person matters,” James said. “Therefore, every single person must be counted.
“New York state is currently not keeping up with the national rate and we can and must do better.”
The census has been distributed to count each U.S. resident every 10 years since 1790.
New Yorkers in Northern and Central New York regions have the lowest response rate, James said.
About 64.4% of New Yorkers self-responded to the 2010 census. The state ranks 36th among states in national response.
The questionnaire is available in 13 languages and can be completed online, by phone or mail. All responses are strictly confidential and protected by federal law.
“We cannot let almost half of our population go uncounted and unrecognized,” Gillibrand said Tuesday afternoon at a press conference in Manhattan. “It will take less than 10 minutes and it will change the next 10 years. Everyone in New York needs to take the time to be counted before Sept. 30.”
New York’s population is estimated at 19.45 million people, fourth-highest in the nation, according to the Census Bureau. More than $1.5 trillion in federal spending is distributed to 300 programs nationwide each year based on census data. New York receives more than $73 billion through 55 of those essential services.
An estimated 500,000 census enumerators are headed door-to-door to count the number of people in every household by Sept. 30 that has not responded to the questionnaire residents are asked to complete once each decade. Enumerators will focus on hard-to-count areas with high numbers of vacant housing units, multi-family housing units and people living below the poverty level.
NYC Census 2020 Director Julie Menin said the organization is tracking down about 35,000 New Yorkers and Manhattan residents who requested an absentee ballot to a second address.
New Yorkers who completed a questionnaire based on their non-primary residence are instructed to visit 2020census.gov and complete a second form with their New York City address.
“Those who have left Manhattan, please fill out the census as a Manhattanite,” Menin said. “We are chasing you to your forwarding address. It is your constitutional responsibility to fill it out with your Manhattan address.”
Collected census data helps the federal government determine how to allocate about $880 billion in federal funding for services such as health care, education, housing and infrastructure.
James said the questionnaire does not ask about a person’s immigration status, and inquires about general information, such as the genders and annual income, of the people in your household. “Every single response makes a difference,” James said. “We only get this chance once a decade. If you live here, you need to be counted.”
New York City public schools will receive more than $27,000 over the next decade for every child counted.
“This year is more important than ever,” James said.
Officials railed against the Trump administration Tuesday after a recent order to speed up the conclusion of the once-per-decade population tally and the administration adding a question about citizenship status. The Census Bureau asked Congress in April to extend its reporting deadline because of pandemic-related delays.
“President Trump is doing everything he can to cut people out and leave people behind,” Gillibrand said. “He’s tried everything from changing questions and the deadline, taking aim yet again at New York and our immigrant and minority communities.”
Historically, minority and low-income neighborhoods are the easiest to undercount.
“This pandemic has exposed and amplified the inequalities that have existed for generations,” the senator added. “Trump’s actions will only magnify them.
“Undercounting these communities will leave state and local governments with fewer resources.”
The Trump administration’s interference in the census has made the process intimidating, said Meeta Anand, senior fellow and convener with NY Counts 2020 Coalition, citing the president’s July 21 memo stating undocumented immigrants would not be counted.
“It is about respect,” Anand said. “By not counting our immigrant communities, the Trump administration is denying us our opportunity and denying us who we are.”
Undercounting New York residents could affect federal Medicaid or housing assistance funding, and make the state’s political district lines inaccurate.
“We could lose political representation in Washington,” James said. “It’s critically important we all participate in this, in the great democracy, and that all of us be counted.”
To be counted in the 2020 census, visit 2020census.gov.
Tribune News Service contributed to this report.