The following letter from our president, Lorie A. Slutsky, appeared on the website of Crain’s New York Business on February 12, 2019.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been a leading voice in the effort to ensure that every New York resident is properly counted in the 2020 Census. He has put the state at the front of a lawsuit that would block an effort to add a citizenship question and announced a statewide awareness campaign last month.
But he has been noticeably silent when it comes to a vital next step: putting money behind crucial outreach and education efforts in hard-to-count communities.
Without such state investment, New York will fail to achieve an accurate count, an outcome that would have disastrous consequences for our state.
It would mean the loss of billions of dollars each year over the next decade in federal aid provided through programs that are apportioned and distributed to states and localities. New York’s congressional representation could also shrink to 25 seats from 27 in three years, after having lost two seats in 2012.
The unprecedented array of threats we face make state investment in this effort even more crucial. Quite simply, we cannot trust the federal government to get this right. New Yorkers must take on the issue ourselves.
We have the power to change these grave predictions through coordinated work by government, philanthropy, nonprofits and the business community—and by making targeted investments to ensure that every resident in every county in New York is counted.
For example, last year The New York Community Trust and our foundation partners across the state created the New York State Census Equity Fund. This aims to raise and direct more than $3 million from foundation and individual donors to trusted nonprofits to ensure New York’s hardest-to-count populations are, indeed, counted.
I am also encouraged to see that many leaders in the business community share our concerns about the 2020 census, and I have the pleasure of being a member of the Census 2020 for a Better New York committee recently established by the Association for a Better New York to help ensure the city is not undercounted.
Unfortunately, philanthropic and business community investments will only go so far without appropriate support from government.
Other states are already putting resources toward ensuring an accurate count. California recently appropriated $90.3 million to its census program—at least $28 million of which is directed to community organizations for local and statewide outreach. Gov. Gavin Newsom has also proposed an additional $50 million in support.
Our experience during the 2010 count shows that concentrated outreach can make a big impact, especially in communities that are typically undercounted. For instance, the Long Island 2010 Census Initiative invested $340,000 in outreach. In turn, 19 of the 23 census tracts on which the initiative focused showed increased response rates, including a dramatic 21% increase in Central Islip.
Like California, New York and its residents have a lot at stake. The governor should join us by making a $60 million investment to help ensure that each and every New Yorker is counted in 2020.
Lorie A. Slutsky is president of The New York Community Trust.
Learn more about our Census Equity Fund.