Lawmaker hopes to fix Census undercounting in New York

census 4NA state assemblyman is taking steps to get New York ready for the 2020 U.S. Census in hopes of preventing another undercount — a potential problem being raised by officials and some news organizations.

Assemblyman Marcos Crespo, a Bronx Democrat, was joined by members of the Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force, AARP, New York Community action association, the New York Public Interest Research Group, Fiscal Policy Institute, Hunger Action Network of New York and other groups, to unveil legislation that would implement an action plan for the upcoming 2020 Census.

Bill A.9554 would establish the New York state 2020 Complete Count Commission, a 61-member planning body responsible for creating an action plan for state, local and nonprofit agencies to ensure a complete count during the next census.

Crespo’s proposed law would require the commission to identify the issues that led to the 2010 Census undercount in New York state and makes recommendations to ensure an accurate count in 2010.

Supporters of the bill say undercounts during the 2000 and 2010 Census have cost New York two congressional seats and a loss of tens of billions of dollars in federal aid for a range of programs, including education, housing and transportation.

Each person not counted by the U.S Census costs New York State $3,054 dollars in lost federal funding.

“Multiply this by the more than 700,000 New Yorkers not counted and what we find is that annually our state loses $1.5 billion in federal aid for a range of programs which help our children, our families, our senior citizens with their education, their housing needs, their medical needs and more,” Crespo said. “And this figure could be much higher because New York state has done little to ensure state and local level participation in ensuring a complete count.”

There is a projected loss of another congressional seat in New York state, which would further dilute New York’s power in Congress and deprive the state of substantial federal funding which is often based on a state’s population. The seat is expected to be lost upstate, but the exact location would not be known until the redistricting process that follows a Census count.

“We cannot continue to hurt our communities by not counting the census right,” Crespo said.

According to the Census Bureau, barriers to a proper count in 2000 and 2010 included a highly mobile population; irregular housing; motives for concealment, such as undocumented immigrant status or illegal conversions of garages and back rooms into housing units; languages other than English; limited literacy; and a fear of outsiders.

Another factor that complicates a proper count in New York state is the drastic differences in population density across regions. For example, in Hamilton County, there are 2.6 residents per square mile while in Manhattan, that number is 48,000 residents per square mile.

“We need to understand that our geography and the varying density of population provides us with avenues for a proper count, and obstacles for a proper count,” Crespo said. “We need to make the 2020 Complete Count Commission a reality this year. If we fail to plan properly for the 2020 Census, we will have failed to prevent the loss of billions more in lost annual federal aid and slow the decline of influence of our shrinking congressional delegation.”

There is a common notion that many senior citizens are leaving New York state, but some senior citizen advocacy groups say otherwise.

“We don’t think it’s accurate that a lot of seniors are leaving, we are finding that seniors don’t have a residence, maybe they’re homeless, they may be living with family members, there is a large immigrant senior population that often isn’t counted,” said Gail Myers of Senior Action Network.

The bill has been referred to the Governmental Operations Committee as on March 16.

“Getting the Census right is critically important,” said Blair Horner, the executive director of the New York Public Interest research Group. “This legislation will help ensure that New York’s population number is as accurate as it can be. Assemblymember Crespo deserves credit for giving the state a running head start.”