As New York State prepares for the 2020 Census, Assemblymembers Didi Barrett (D – Columbia, Dutchess) and Marcos Crespo (D – Bronx) have requested $1 million in the 2018-19 FY budget be appropriated to public library systems across the state for census programming to address potential undercounting. An additional $27 million is requested for the long-term planning and outreach statewide for the 2020 Census. Because billions of dollars in federal aid are tied to the census count and two Congressional seats were lost after the 2010 Census, the results of the upcoming 2020 Census are critical for the level of federal funding and representation New York deserves. Urban and rural areas with immigrant populations have some of the highest numbers of “Hard to Count Areas” and are at risk of once again being undercounted. These areas also tend to be the places where internet access is limited. Additionally, there are real concerns that the current level of federal funding will compromise the fairness and accuracy of the 2020 Census.
The Census Bureau’s goal of receiving over half of the census submissions online, despite the huge percentage of households that do not have access to internet, underscores the digital divide and means that a huge percentage of people are at risk of being undercounted. New York cannot risk this happening again and libraries can play a significant role in stemming the undercount. With additional funding libraries can serve as census navigators, helping thousands and offering a safe and accessible location for all those needing assistance filling out census forms. Those without access to the internet or a computer must not be disenfranchised from the constitutionally mandated counting of every person living in the United States.
“We know New Yorkers were undercounted in 2010, especially in immigrant and rural communities, and the Federal government is already putting up roadblocks and cutting back on resources for the 2020 Census," said Assemblymember Didi Barrett, who chairs the Assembly Committee on Libraries and Educational Technology. “To make sure we are fully counted this time we must start planning now. Engaging our libraries, which are widely considered a safe and trusted space in our communities, makes all the sense in the world."
“The 2020 Census is shaping up to be a real problem,” said Assemblymember Crespo, who chairs the Assembly Task Force on Demographics and Reapportionment. “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.”