Brooklyn pols request $4 million in state funds to get a complete count in Census 2020

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Census Bureau

More than 30 Brooklyn officials have signed a letter to the governor asking that “adequate” funding be directed to the borough to prepare for the upcoming 2020 Census. Brooklyn pols are concerned that the risk of an undercount in their communities is “alarmingly high.”

“While we are heartened that the state budget included $20 million for census outreach efforts, the allocation of those funds has yet to be released,” their letter states. “In light of the uniquely high risk of an undercount in our borough, we are writing to urge you to direct at least $4 million of the funds to community groups in Brooklyn.”

The letter, dated September 24, was signed by nine state senators, eight state Assembly members, 11 city council members, five members of Congress and the Brooklyn district attorney.

State Senator Zellnor Myrie was among those who signed the letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo requesting the $4 million for Brooklyn Census counting efforts. Myrie and his fellow lawmakers note that Brooklyn has always presented a problem for the Census.

For example, a report by the Fiscal Policy Institute shows that 33 percent of Brooklyn households did not respond by mail during the 2010 Census, which then requires Census takers to go door-to-door.

Immigrants, refugees, people with limited English, low-income families, communities of color, parents of young children, and homeless people all provide a challenge to Census takers, and 80 percent of Brooklyn residents live in communities labeled as “hard-to-count” neighborhoods. Half of the 500 Census tracts most at risk of an undercount are located in the borough.

The Fiscal Policy Institute recommended that the state direct more funds to Brooklyn than any other county in the state. If the borough doesn’t receive the funds it needs for an accurate count, Myrie says residents could suffer greatly.

“Brooklynites already face a lack of resources for many of their immediate needs, an undercount would only make this worse,” the letter states. “Funding for programs that so many of our neighbors depend on to keep a roof over their head and food on their table — such as Section 8 and SNAP could decline. New York’s federal standing could also weaken, as we stand to lose at least two congressional seats.”

Sen. Myrie and Assemblywoman Diana Richardson recently held the first meeting for the Census Complete Count Committee, a volunteer committee dedicated to increasing awareness and fostering resident action to mitigate the challenges facing the gathering of full count in the borough.

The city, community groups, houses of worship and other stakeholders in the borough are advancing the fight against an undercount. New York City has committed $40 million to census outreach, double what the state has allocated. The Brooklyn Community Foundation, in combination with the Borough President’s Office, have pledged to invest $100,000. Overall, more than $3 million has been raised to combat the issue.

Still, legislators and local officials say the funding promised by the state is a crucial part of ensuring an adequate and accurate count is reached.

“A potential undercount poses a grave risk to the rights, livelihood and well being of millions of people in Brooklyn and across the state,” the letter reads. “Our community is doing everything in our power to prepare for the census because we take that risk seriously. We trust that the state will, too.”