Opinion: Down for the count

By former Assemblymember Steven Sanders

Something really important happened last week at the United State Supreme Court. Arguments both pro and con were presented regarding a Trump Administration policy to change the way in which the decennial census is calculated by the federal Department of Commerce. The outcome could impact New York State in a big way.

Every ten years the government counts the total number of individuals residing in the country, broken down by each individual state and its cities, towns and villages. Currently the national population estimate updated in 2017 stands at 325,719,178 persons. In New York State, the number is 19,849,399. That includes both citizens and non-citizens alike.

So what’s going on at the Supreme Court and what’s the big deal? And should we be concerned?

The Department of Commerce wants to make a change to the census questionnaires that will be sent next year to every household, and other residential facilities. They want to inquire whether the respondents are citizens or not. The validity of including that question has been challenged and the Supreme Court will soon decide. On the surface this all might seem innocuous…but it is not. In fact it is insidious.

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Letters to the editor, May 2

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Why 2020 Census matters

To the Editor:

A severe undercount in the 2020 Census would dramatically reduce the amount of federal funding New York receives for a range of critical programs delivered by nonprofits – jeopardizing the very existence of these organizations, causing them to cut staff, end programs and cripple their ability to connect with underserved communities. Twenty billion dollars a year is on the line for New York City alone.

 A Community Resource Exchange survey found that nonprofits fear they’ll be forced to reassess how to effectively meet needs if they have to scale back, particularly because they already operate on budgets stretched thin due to years of government underfunding.

We’re at serious risk of a 2020 undercount due to the late start in funding outreach efforts, proposed citizenship question and apprehension around online submissions. This would build on the decade of under-investment we saw because of the last Census undercount.

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