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Urgent effort underway to explain importance of 2020 census

September 03, 2019 05:04 PM

ALBANY – Congressman Paul Tonko was sounding the alarm in Albany on Tuesday.

Along with Mayor Kathy Sheehan and Census Bureau officials, there was a collective effort to remind people how important it'll be next year to be counted in the 2020 census.

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Once everyone has been counted, 325 federal agencies will divvy up more than $900 billion based on info gathered by the U.S. Census Bureau. The data is that critically important.

To begin with, the census determines how many congressional representatives we have.

"We should not needlessly lose a seat in the House of Representatives because we're an under count," said Tonko.

In addition, federal dollars for infrastructure, healthcare, and education are at stake.

"This is how we get resources for our city," said Sheehan.

Yet, a census under count seems a real possibility.

"Perhaps more than one-third of the Capital Region residents may not be counted," warned Tonko.

"We also have a high proportion of vulnerable populations - people who are afraid that if they respond to the census it could result in some negative consequence," said Sheehan.

Protocols in place since the 1950s strictly prohibit the release of census information.

"We've never had anyone break that law. We don't anticipate anyone breaking it moving forward," said Jeff Behler, the U.S. census regional director.

Moving forward, there will be a sophisticated messaging campaign where people will hear all about census reminders in some unconventional places.

"Our places of worship, our doctors’ offices, our schools, our BOCES," said Jim Malatras, the co-chair of the New York State Complete Count Commission.

On top of that, for the first time in history, most census forms will be filled out online.

"It's safe. It's easy. It's important," said Tonko.

"This is going to be a daunting effort. This is going to be one of the most difficult census processes that any state or nation has ever completed," said Malatras.

All of this under the back drop of an effort by the White House to include a citizenship question on the census, something Paul Tonko calls a regrettable and unacceptable weaponization of the process that's meant to intimidate immigrants.

Part of the problem moving forward is that the Census Bureau now needs to educate people and convince them they can trust the confidentiality of the system and that their communities are counting on them.

Credits

Dan Levy

Copyright 2019 WNYT-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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