Gotham Gazette https://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/1237 Tue, 21 Jan 2020 18:04:36 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb webmaster@gothamgazette.com (Webmaster) New York City Launches ‘Complete Count Campaign’ for 2020 Census https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/9050-new-york-city-launches-complete-count-campaign-for-2020-census https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/9050-new-york-city-launches-complete-count-campaign-for-2020-census complete count census

(photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)


In about eight weeks, the U.S. Census Bureau will officially begin mailing out questionnaires across the country and New York City intends to be prepared. On Tuesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio rallied with members of more than 150 community groups at NYU’s Kimmel Center to launch the city’s Complete Count Campaign to educate New Yorkers about the decennial population count and to recruit and train volunteers from hard-to-count communities to amplify those efforts.

The mayor's administration and City Council have put $40 million towards the census outreach effort this year, an unprecedented amount that dwarfs past administrations and all other municipalities across the nation. Of that funding, $19 million was awarded last month to 157 community-based organizations to reach hard-to-count populations that tend to have a low rate of self-response to the Census – seniors, low-income communities of color, immigrants and people with limited English proficiency, children below the age of 5, residents of public housing, and more.

On Tuesday, the mayor announced that the city will also spend $3 million on advertisements in ethnic and community media, about 65% of the total ad budget for the campaign, with the rest blanketing television, print, digital and social media. The campaign will include ads on the subway, on Spotify, Twitter, Facebook and more. 

"New York City has been on the front lines of the resistance against the Trump Administration and ensuring every New Yorker gets counted is central to that fight," said Mayor de Blasio, in a statement. "No matter how hard the federal government tries to silence our diverse voices, we still stand up and be counted."

An accurate count is essential for a number of reasons. The Census determines how many seats the state has in the House of Representatives and is the basis for about $74 billion in funding from the federal government that goes to social services and programs such as Section 8 housing vouchers and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, often known as food stamps).

"A complete headcount in the 2020 Census is crucial for the future well-being of our city. We have to get this right to ensure we receive the proper federal funding for our schools, our roads, our health care, our public housing, and more," said City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, in a statement. "This is our once-in-a-decade opportunity to show the federal government that we are here, and that we count."

Besides New York’s high concentration of hard-to-count communities, there are also several other challenges associated with the 2020 Census including a predominantly online methodology for the first time and the tactics of the Trump administration, which tried unsuccessfully to place a citizenship question on the Census. After years of city officials warning immigrants to be wary of the federal government, they now find themselves trying to convince them to participate in the federal effort.

The Census Bureau is also woefully underfunded, and will hire fewer enumerators for the count. Enumerators head door-to-door in communities where residents have not responded to the questionnaire and their efforts are often inaccurate, risking an undercount. That’s why the city is hoping to ensure that New Yorkers’ respond on their own – in 2010, the city’s self-response rate was only 62%, compared with the national average of 76%.

City officials have promised a Herculean effort to achieve that goal. The NYC Census office aims to educate 10,000 New Yorkers directly and recruit 7,500 volunteers for Neighborhood Organizing Census Committees (NOCCs), to conduct “Get Out the Count” efforts across the city including through phone-banking, text-banking and on-the-ground canvassing. The city has also pressed into service the City University of New York, a range of city agencies that regularly interact with the public, and 110 branches of the city’s three library systems. They are also being aided by a host of labor unions, business groups, faith leaders and houses of worship.

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

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New York City Launches ‘Complete Count Campaign’ for 2020 Census Mon, 13 Jan 2020 05:00:00 +0000
City Awards $19 Million in Census Funds to Community Outreach Organizations https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8970-city-awards-19-million-in-census-funds-to-community-outreach-organizations https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8970-city-awards-19-million-in-census-funds-to-community-outreach-organizations may bdb census

Mayor de Blasio with Census Director Julie Menin and others (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)


As the U.S. Census Bureau prepares to send out questionnaires for the decennial population count beginning in March, city officials are working to make sure that New York City residents respond en masse. On Friday, the city is announcing a list of 155 organizations that will receive some part of a $19-million funding pot to conduct outreach in hard-to-count communities and populations across the city.

The city’s Complete Count Fund makes up nearly half the $40 million allocation that Mayor Bill de Blasio and the New York City Council made towards ensuring that New Yorkers are accurately counted next year. It’s the most funding put towards the Census effort by New York City, and the highest amount of any city across the country this time around, according to city officials. For the 2010 Census, the city spent scant resources and the self-response rate for residents was only 62%, well under the national average of 76%.

New York City is particularly vulnerable to an undercount with its heavy concentration of hard-to-count communities, including majority-black neighborhoods, public housing residents, seniors, children under the age of 5, undocumented immigrants, people with limited English proficiency and non-English speakers, people experiencing homelessness, and more. Officials at the city and state level have recognized that the best method to reach marginalized and at times nearly-invisible populations and communities is through community-based organizations that interact with them on a regular basis in their neighborhoods and in their languages.

“We will fight the fear and disinformation by those forces that want to rob us of the resources and representation that are rightfully ours by investing in community-based organizing — a model we know works," Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement. "Neighbors will empower neighbors to stand up and be counted. New York City will not be intimidated."

Out of nearly 500 applicants for funds, the city chose 155 organizations that will be awarded grants of between $25,000 and $250,000. The groups were picked based on five criteria: geography, demography, overall reach, capacity and quality of proposals, and track record.

“We have to undo the damage that has been wrought by the Trump administration's unsuccessful and illegal attempt to add the citizenship question,” said NYC Census Director Julie Menin, in a phone interview, emphasizing the importance of the grants. “It is most often community groups and community voices that have been trusted leaders in their neighborhood for years who people will listen to.”

Another at times intersecting challenge this time around is that the Census will for the first time be digital-first, with residents encouraged by Census mailers to identify themselves online. If residents do not respond on their own, Census Bureau enumerators must find them at home to count them, a costly and laborious exercise that has led to undercounts in the past. And undercounts can have disastrous consequences, leading to cuts in federal funding to the state and even a drop in representation in the House of Representatives where New York State already stands to lose at least one seat owing to a decrease in population.

“We're in a national competition with other states, and to the extent that New Yorkers do not respond, that just means that other areas receive funding that is rightfully ours,” Menin said. “We can't allow that to happen.”

In a statement, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson reiterated that the community-based organizations are crucial in ensuring a complete and accurate count. “We have to get this right. This is a once-in-a decade chance to make sure we get the federal resources we deserve. Every New Yorker counts. This is an investment in our future,” he said.

Among the grant recipients is Sure We Can, an organization that runs a recycling center and advocates for 7,000 canners, who earn a living from collecting and recycling containers. Many of those canners come from communities that have been historically undercounted.

“There are cultural forces that render this population largely invisible and that's a big reason that we want to get involved in the census,” said Ryan Castalia, special projects coordinator of Sure We Can. “Because things like lack of digital literacy, non-English speaking, even cultural resistance to being counted due to...a lifetime of stigmatization and resistance to being a part of these systems has led to just the codification of the structures that keep them from participating.”

The census-related funding provides an opportunity to “directly contribute to these people not just having an abstract sense of empowerment but literally being counted by a culture, by a country, by a state that has been resistant to recognizing their needs,” he said. The money the organization is receiving from the city will chiefly go to training and preparing teams of canners to be Census outreach workers.

“While they might comprise 7,000 people, their reach could potentially be enormous and incredibly impactful to a community that is quite oftentimes marginalized and overlooked,” Menin said of the organization.

The factors that affect canners apply across many vulnerable populations and the city chose a broad range of organizations to address them. Other awardees include, for instance, the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority’s East Kings County Alumnae Chapter. The sorority has 80 volunteers that work with the African/Sub-Saharan African, African-American, Caribbean, Haitian, Latinx, and Jamaican communities in Brooklyn.

There is the Apicha Community Health Center, which provides health care services to low-income and uninsured New Yorkers, particularly those living with HIV. It has 100 full-time workers who provide services to 7,000 people each year in Manhattan and Queens across the African American, Asian-Pacific Islander, Latinx, and LGBTQ communities.

Manhattan-based JASA, another grant winner, has 600 employees and works with 43,000 seniors every year. It’s clients are African-American, Caribbean, Chinese, Latinx, Puerto Rican, and Russian.

For the city, the next step in its outreach is a mass media campaign that will launch in February, Menin said.

Meanwhile, at the state level census outreach is lagging behind. Governor Andrew Cuomo announced last month that the state would dedicate about $60 million worth of resources to the effort, of which $20 million in direct funding was earmarked in this year’s budget (the other $40 million is the estimated value of in-kind state resources dedicated toward census efforts). On Wednesday, the state announced that local governments could begin applying for $15 million out of that pot while the other $5 million will be distributed later to target specific hard-to-count communities.

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

Note - this article has been updated with a comment from Mayor de Blasio. 

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City Awards $19 Million in Census Funds to Community Outreach Organizations Fri, 06 Dec 2019 05:00:00 +0000
Cuomo Announces Census Outreach and Funding Plans https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8938-cuomo-announces-census-outreach-and-funding-plans https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8938-cuomo-announces-census-outreach-and-funding-plans peeskill downtown

(Photo: Mike Groll/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo)


After months of uncertainty about the state’s commitment to the 2020 Census, and repeated exasperated pleas for funding from advocates and elected officials, Governor Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday announced that the state will devote up to the equivalent of $60 million in outreach efforts for the decennial population count. According to a press release from the governor’s office, Cuomo is directing state agencies to dedicate what amounts to roughly $40 million worth of Census activities, such as helping New Yorkers fill out the form, while also beginning the process of allocating $20 million earmarked in the state budget earlier this year toward contracts with groups that will drive participation in hard-to-count communities.

“Counting every New Yorker in the 2020 Census is critical to ensuring we are accurately represented in Congress and receive the federal funding we deserve," Cuomo said in a statement. “While the federal government has thrown up road block after road block – spreading fear among immigrant communities in the process – in New York we will break through and make sure that even our most difficult to reach communities are counted.”

As Cuomo intimated, the 2020 Census will come with its fair share of complexities. New York State is home to many hard-to-count populations including seniors, children under the age of 5, homeless people, public housing residents, and immigrants, particularly non-English speakers and undocumented residents. African-American communities are historically also often home to among the lowest participation rates on the Census.

The U.S. Census Bureau is also emphasizing digital responses, creating challenges for communities with little to no access to high-speed internet, and has less-than-adequate funding to hire enumerators who go door-to-door to count residents who do not self-respond to the Census. An unsuccessful two-year effort by the Trump administration to add a citizenship question to the Census questionnaire also generated fear and apprehension among immigrant communities, leaders of those communities say.

An undercount would have dire consequences for the state, not only reducing its share of many billions of dollars in federal funding but also its representation in Congress, along with myriad other adverse effects that would be felt for a decade.

Cuomo’s announcement was based on the report of the New York State Complete Count Commission, which was charged with crafting a strategy for the Census count and spent months soliciting input from experts and members of the public on how the state should spend the $20 million allocated in the state budget. Next week, the state will put out a Request for Expressions of Interest so nonprofits can apply for grants out of that funding pot.

In a surprise to advocates, Cuomo also declared Tuesday that $40 million in existing state agency resources would be committed to the endeavor. The effort will involve CUNY, SUNY, and agencies across state government including the Departments of Labor, Motor Vehicles, Agriculture and Markets; the offices of Mental Health, Alcohol and Substance Abuse, and People with Developmental Disabilities; Empire State Development; and the Division of Veterans Affairs.

Cuomo noted in his announcement, for instance, that the state labor department will help New Yorkers fill out the Census at all 96 of its career centers; SUNY and CUNY will ensure as many as possible of their 700,000 students are counted; and the DMV will display Census information at its 27 state-run district offices and 94 county-run field offices, along with emailing 4 million New Yorkers in its database.

The state has precious little time to put thought into action. The Census count officially begins in March and the U.S. Census Bureau has begun to release the logistical details of the process, including a Monday announcement of areas where households in hard-to-count regions will receive paper questionnaires even amid the emphasis on digital responses.

Meanwhile, New York City has spent months preparing a multi-pronged approach to the various obstacles presented by the Census, with $40 million of its own provided together by Mayor Bill de Blasio and the New York City Council. The city has created neighborhood coordinating committees, is recruiting hundreds of volunteers, engaging city agencies and local businesses, and will launch a large media campaign in January.

The state, on the other hand, had taken few steps until now. The New York State Complete Count Commission was delayed in being named and creating its strategy. The Commission’s report identified challenges and proposed solutions that were already known to advocates who say their only impediment was a lack of funds. Cuomo’s announcement on Monday was welcome news to them.

“Time is of the essence. The official Census 2020 release is just a few months away. It is imperative that we have an expeditious process for awarding the money allocated for the community based organizations that are on the frontlines,” said Esmeralda Simmons, executive director of the Center for Law and Social Justice at Medgar Evers College, in a statement.

Simmons was on the state Census commission and is a member of New York Counts 2020, a statewide coalition of advocates, nonprofit organizations and business groups that are working on an accurate census count. “Those groups, which engage directly with the community, are the trusted voices who are best able to underscore the importance of filling out the census and being counted. These are the organizations that will help make the difference and ensure that vulnerable 'hard to count' communities are fully represented in the census,” Simmons added.

“This is much needed and overdue,” said State Senator Zellnor Myrie, who has been outspoken about the need for Cuomo to move ahead on Census preparation, in a Tuesday statement. Myrie did issue a word of caution: “[A]s always, the devil is in the details. It is still unclear to us whether historically under-counted communities, like Brooklyn, will receive a proportion of the funding that is commensurate with their unique need and, whether that funding will be dispersed as expeditiously as possible given how close the census is.”

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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Cuomo Announces Census Outreach and Funding Plans Tue, 19 Nov 2019 05:00:00 +0000
State Census Commission Releases Report, with Funding Decisions Kicked Back to Cuomo Administration https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8837-state-census-commission-releases-report-with-funding-decisions-kicked-back-to-cuomo-administration https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8837-state-census-commission-releases-report-with-funding-decisions-kicked-back-to-cuomo-administration mmv president attends

(photo: William Alatriste/City Council)


A state commission charged with creating a plan for ensuring a complete count of New York residents in the 2020 Census has finally released its report, nine months after it was due and with continued ambiguity over how state census funding will be distributed.

The New York State Complete Count Commission, made up of executive and legislative branch appointees, spent months holding hearings across the state to solicit input on the challenges posed by the decennial census and how the state should respond. The commission was co-chaired by New York State Secretary of State Rossana Rosado and Jim Malatras, president of the Rockefeller Institute of Government and a former top aide to Governor Andrew Cuomo.

This year’s state budget included $20 million for census efforts and the commission’s report, approved in a unanimous vote on Tuesday morning, is meant to be a roadmap for allocating that funding and avoiding an undercount, which could lead to less federal funding for the state, a loss of possibly two seats in the House of Representatives, and a whole host of other ancillary effects over the course of a decade.

Many of the concerns the report outlines were already apparent to advocates and observers: That New York is home to potentially 4.8 million hard-to-count individuals (particularly children under the age of 5) and that several communities lack language access, that the new online methodology could lead to lower responses among seniors or those lacking computer literacy, that the Census Bureau is having trouble recruiting workers and that communities of color and immigrants are particularly wary of the process, owing in no small part to the Trump administration’s unsuccessful efforts to add a citizenship question.

That question threat, in particular, has “created a lot of controversy, and had a potential chilling effect and created consternation in many of our communities, especially our foreign-born communities,” said Malatras, at Tuesday’s meeting where commissioners video-conferenced in from across the state. “Besides California, New York State has the highest percentage of foreign-born communities and people in the nation. So, in particular, it hits our state hard.”

The report also noted worries about data protection because of the digital-focused questionnaire, and omissions of home addresses from the Census Bureau’s records.

The challenges are by no means small. There are more than 200 languages spoken across the state but the Census Bureau will only provide video and printed guides in 59 languages and will translate the online questionnaire into only 12 other languages besides English. As many as 113,000 New Yorkers will have no language support from the Census Bureau, the report notes.

About 13.5% of households across the state also lack access to the internet at home, which could depress their self-response rate. The federal government has also yet to provide a waiver to the New York Census office to hire non-citizens as enumerators, who go door-to-door surveying residents in communities where the self-response rate is low. Advocates and officials agree that in immigrant-heavy communities, non-citizens are often the most effective at gaining people’s trust and soliciting responses.

Failing to meet these challenges could mean that New York State could see a drop in self-response rates to 58%, down from 62% in 2010 when the national average was 76%, according to Census Bureau estimates.

The report lays out several recommendations for a strategy the state should follow. It includes an analysis of hard-to-count census tracts, identifying where the state should expend its resources. The commission recommends a targeted communications campaign for communities at risk of an undercount and additional support for areas that lack internet connectivity and populations that rank low on digital literacy.

It also pushes for expanded translation services and building trust with immigrant communities. The report notes that if federal immigration authorities seek to misuse Census data, the state’s Liberty Defense Project should be pressed into action to provide legal assistance to immigrants.

Acknowledging that certain sections of the population fly under the radar, the report specifically urges the state to ensure an accurate count of people experiencing homelessness. It also pushes for ensuring that individuals in group-living situations – students in dormitories, seniors in nursing homes, inmates in correctional facilities – are counted.

The commission laid out a detailed plan for how the state can support municipalities with their efforts to conduct census outreach including providing aid to local complete count committees, collaborating with “trusted voices” like nonprofit service providers, labor, and faith-based organizations, enlisting all state agencies in the census effort, collaborating with the philanthropic community and establishing Census Assistance Centers in hard-to-count census tracts.

One place the report falls short is on details of how the $20 million in state funding will be spent. It’s unclear in what form that funding will be utilized.

“We are reviewing the report and the insight it provides on how the State, local governments and our partners can work together so that every New Yorker is counted in the 2020 Census,” said Freeman Klopott, a spokesperson for the state Division of the Budget, in an email.

At the hearing, Malatras acknowledged that the commission’s work had been delayed – it was only appointed after its first report was already due. “What we have to do today is we get this report to the state so they can release those resources that they provided in the budget,” he said. The commission is also meant to release a second and final report in January that details progress on its recommendations, he pointed out.

Commissioner Henry Garrido, executive director of labor union DC37 (who was appointed when Commissioner Hector Figueroa of 32BJ SEIU unexpectedly passed away -- the report includes a dedication to Figueroa) raised concerns about mistrust in immigrant communities and the question of hiring non-immigrants. Though Malatras admitted that “there was no clarity” on the use of the federal waiver, he urged local authorities to move ahead either way. “So we're going to go forward as if it would be okay to hire,” he said.

He also noted that, with a lack of support from the federal government, the state would have to step up. He pointed to the Department of Labor, in particular, noting that it has a robust census outreach plan in place already and said that the state would use SUNY and CUNY as recruiting centers for census outreach workers. 

Commissioner Jose Calderón, president of the Hispanic Federation, raised the issue of the release of state funds. “We are already really late in the game,” he pointed out, wondering about the process and timeline on which the money would be awarded to community-based organizations. “It is those trusted sources that are going to help us deliver on the promise of getting a complete count in New York State,” he said.

Calderón’s worries were echoed by other commissioners including Esmeralda Simmons, founder and executive director of the Center for Law and Social Justice at Medgar Evers College, CUNY. “It's a roadmap,” she said of the report, “but unfortunately, it doesn't get us to our destination.”

She said CBOs have been waiting for months for funding to assist their work and the report provides few details on that front. “Everyone's waiting for recommendations on how the money is going to be spent, and how it's going to be utilized,” she said. “And we all know state government is not usually that swift. I appreciate all the actions that are anticipated but we have said none of that in this report. We've talked about no plan on how to get the money out there.”

Malatras sought to downplay those concerns, insisting that the next report due in January will address any funding issues and that it wasn’t within the commission’s authority to dictate whether the state dole out funding through a competitive bidding process or through agencies. “We want to make sure there's maximum flexibility for the state Legislature, the executive and others to say this is how they want to do it,” he said.

Simmons later pushed a motion to send a message of urgency in writing that the $20 million in census funding “be appropriated by the most efficient and expeditious method using state entities.” The motion was unanimously approved.

[Read: As City Rolls Out Census Funding for Outreach Efforts, State Lags Behind]

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

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State Census Commission Releases Report, with Funding Decisions Kicked Back to Cuomo Administration Tue, 08 Oct 2019 04:00:00 +0000
As City Rolls Out Census Funding for Outreach Efforts, State Lags Behind https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8831-new-york-city-2020-census-funding-state-lags https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8831-new-york-city-2020-census-funding-state-lags union sq counts

(photo: @NYCImmigrants)


New York City is moving full steam ahead with its effort to ensure that the 2020 Census counts each and every resident of the five boroughs, with millions of dollars in funding and a four-pillar strategy for outreach to hard-to-count communities. But New York State’s effort seems to have stalled and there is little indication that state authorities are moving with urgency despite the many billions of dollars in federal funding and congressional representation at stake.

In the 2010 Census, New York City residents’ self-response rate to the Census was an abysmal 62%, well below the national average of 76%. The city is home to many hard-to-count populations – among which self-response rates are relatively low – including children, seniors, immigrants, predominantly black communities, and residents of public housing. An undercount of these populations can affect everything from federal funding levels for programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Section 8 housing vouchers to business investment in the city and the state’s seats in the House of Representatives.

Increasing the rate of self-response also means requiring fewer census enumerators, the individuals who go door-to-door to count residents who have not responded. Officials have been working for years at the city and state levels to make sure that the Census Bureau has a complete list of addresses for New York residents.

The 2020 Census is plagued with many new and particular problems that have raised concerns that New York could see an even lower self-response rate – as low as 58%, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates. The Census Bureau is being underfunded by the federal government, with fewer enumerators being hired to hit the ground; the Trump administration sought unsuccessfully to place a citizenship question on the Census form, worrying and potentially discouraging responses from immigrants; and the count is being conducted digitally for the first time, which could affect response among those who lack access to the internet and particularly among older residents. 

Between Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration and the New York City Council, the city has budgeted $40 million towards Census outreach, the most funding ever put towards this effort. The city is pursuing a multi-faceted strategy that includes a massive field effort, grants for community-based organizations, a mass media campaign, and partnerships between city agencies.

Last week, Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYC Census Director Julie Menin launched the city’s Neighborhood Organizing Census Committees (NOCCs), which are meant to enlist 2,500 volunteers that will aid in census outreach across 245 neighborhoods. The launch came one day after the city announced the $19-million New York City Complete Count Fund, which will give out grants ranging from $25,000 to $250,000 to qualifying community-based organizations.

The city accepting applications till October 18 and is expected to award the funds by December. The actual Census count will begin April 1.

The $19 million allocation follows an initial $4 million to CBOs by the City Council in August to begin Census work. 

The remaining $17 million of the $40 million has yet to be distributed. Those funds are expected to cover the mass media campaign, which will launch in 2020, and the overall field campaign through the NOCCs.

“The idea behind the NOCCs is that we believe very strongly...that people really want to be involved in the future of their neighborhood,” Menin said in a phone interview. “The best kind of outreach that we can have is neighbor-to-neighbor contact.”

The 245 committees will train volunteers about the importance of the census, how it works and how best to organize locally. “This is really a train-the-trainer model that is very much proven to work,” Menin said.

Additionally, the 2,500 volunteers will act as “census ambassadors” and the city will provide them with printed materials, talking points and a digital tool kit on the census. The NOCCs will also organize phone banks and text banks to conduct outreach, and will also partner with CBOs that receive grants from the city. These CBOs and neighborhood volunteers are particularly essential in immigrant communities for whom English is not a first language or who may have limited English proficiency.

The city has also reached an agreement with the U.S. Census Bureau to receive real-time data on self-response rates, to monitor neighborhoods where residents may not be filling out census forms in the initial phase of the count. “So all the volunteers and really anyone living in those neighborhoods will be able to see exactly how their community is doing each day,” Menin said.

New York state government, on the other hand, has been silent on how it will spend the $20 million allocated in the state budget earlier this year for the 2020 Census. That funding (only half of what advocates had called for) is meant to be distributed based on a report by the New York State Complete Count Commission, which held its last hearing to receive public input on July 31. The report is far past its due date and won’t be out for another few weeks, according to a state official.

“The Complete Count Commission has heard testimony and received comments from local governments, grassroots organizations and the general public across New York State, and we are awaiting the Commission’s recommendations on how best to leverage the up to $20 million made available in the State Budget, existing state resources, and our partnerships with organizations on the ground so that we can maximize outreach efforts and get every New Yorker counted,” said Mercedes Padilla, a spokesperson for New York’s Department of State, in a statement to Gotham Gazette.

Padilla said the recommendations would be made in the next few weeks, but did not provide specifics. The co-chairs of the commission are New York’s Secretary of State Rossana Rosado and Jim Malatras, president of the Rockefeller Institute of Government and formerly a top aide to Governor Cuomo.

On September 24, nearly three dozen local, state, and federal elected officials representing Brooklyn wrote a letter to Governor Cuomo, calling for at least $4 million from the $20-million pot to be sent to census efforts in the borough. With more than 2.6 million residents, Brooklyn is the most populous of New York State’s 62 counties, and the letter notes that 80% of Brooklynites live in hard-to-count communities.

“An undercount in Brooklyn would be an unmitigated disaster not only for the people we represent, but the entire state,” the letter reads. “Billions of dollars in federal aid programs could be lost. While Brooklynites already face a lack of resources for many of their immediate needs, an undercount would only make this worse.”

Brooklyn State Senator Zellnor Myrie expressed frustration that the state is sitting on its hands while the city has allocated and released funds. “We have seen the city step up to the plate...and here [at the state level], we have a situation in which we had money allocated in April, we had a commission that went around the state to solicit feedback on how the census outreach should look, and we have neither the report nor the money.”

Myrie and other elected officials have, in the meantime, begun their own efforts to educate their constituents about the census, hosting information sessions in their districts. Others like Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, and Queens Borough President Melinda Katz have created their own Complete Count Committees with discretionary funds to aid in an accurate count.

“I think we're really putting ourselves at risk of repeating a failed history of counting our community,” Myrie said.

Menin also said that the state had provided no answers yet to city officials on how state funds will be distributed. Though some amount of state money will clearly be spent in the city, Menin said that state officials have indicated that it’s unlikely that funds would be funnelled through the city government. It’s also unclear whether a majority of those funds will go to community organizations and nonprofits, as advocates from the statewide New York Counts 2020 coalition have been pushing.

United Neighborhood Houses, a nonprofit based in New York City and a member of that coalition, is among the CBOs that have received discretionary funds from the New York City Council for census organizing efforts. “We're really strong believers in the fact that community-based organizations are key partners in census outreach,” said Nora Moran, UNH’s director of policy and advocacy, in a phone interview.

Moran noted, as have others, that there is little time until the census begins in earnest. The first mailers from the Census Bureau will be sent out in March. “We know that there's a lot at stake, and there's hard-to-count communities upstate as well as downstate,” she said. “And we really hope that the governor's office releases...that funding that they allocated towards census outreach...sooner rather than later.”

Last month, the New York Counts coalition similarly sent a letter to the governor to press their demands. “We are losing valuable time. While many local governments, libraries and community-based organizations (CBOs) have begun their outreach and organizing activities, the effectiveness and depth of these efforts is dependent on additional funding,” the coalition wrote.

“I think there's just a clear evidence of what needs to be done,” said Myrie, “and what is unclear is why there is a delay.”

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

Note - this article has been updated for clarification. 

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As City Rolls Out Census Funding for Outreach Efforts, State Lags Behind Thu, 03 Oct 2019 04:00:00 +0000
Heading in the Right Direction on City and State Census Funding, But More To Do https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8485-heading-in-the-right-direction-on-city-and-state-census-funding-but-more-to-do https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8485-heading-in-the-right-direction-on-city-and-state-census-funding-but-more-to-do cm carlina rivera press conference

(photo: John McCarten/City Council)


The 2020 Census is less than a year away, and it is imperative that every single person living in New York is counted. In Mayor de Blasio’s proposed Executive Budget, New York City now has $26 million set aside for census outreach, in addition to an undetermined portion of the State’s $20 million that will go to the City.

A good start, but we need more than $26 million to ensure a full count, and with less than a year to go before the counting begins, there is still too much uncertainty about how much of and how fast these funds will make their way to the organizations doing the work on the ground.

This uncertainty is particularly alarming because of how much coordination we need between the City and State to achieve a complete count. We cannot allow anything short of a comprehensive funding strategy to happen. There is too little time and too much at stake, and a smart down payment in 2019 will pay billions in federal dividends if the census is a success.

We’re talking about upwards of $73 billion in federal funding for food, schools, housing, and more for the state. Our representation in Congress is on the line. Even how we draw our State and City district lines is affected. Getting the census right isn’t a wonky statistical game. It directly affects the flow of federal resources going to New York and will determine our economic and political future for the next ten years.

Unfortunately, the U.S. Census Bureau has a hard time counting New Yorkers. More than half the people who live in Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx live in “hard-to-count” neighborhoods, which the Census Bureau defines as areas with a self-response rate of 73% or less in the past census. Such neighborhoods exist in Manhattan and Staten Island as well. The hardest-to-count populations are already among our most vulnerable and underrepresented – immigrants, people of color, low-income people, people with limited English proficiency, and young children.

Yet instead of increasing funding for the Census Bureau, President Trump has slashed it to its lowest point in decades and is fighting to include a citizenship question in the Census that would further depress participation.

Many groups in New York recognize the importance of this moment and have mobilized to ensure a complete count, from community-based organizations, religious leaders, unions, and the business community.

Some of the most trusted and well-regarded advocacy organizations in the State – the New York Immigration Coalition, Asian American Federation, Citizens Union Foundation, NAACP, and Association for a Better New York, among others – have formed coalitions and started educating New Yorkers about the importance of completing the census.

Yet none of these groups can succeed without a commitment from government to work together and fund their efforts directly. These groups know how to reach hard-to-count populations and mobilize them to participate. And through the City Council’s Census 2020 Task Force, the Council can identify even more trusted hyperlocal groups for direct funds to ensure a complete count.

We believe the City and State should combine their efforts and use the most direct routes possible to fund these local census outreach operations to their maximum potential. We also believe we can do better and that the City and State must increase census funding to truly meet the challenge we face.

This is a one-time investment in our economic and political future. There are no do-overs. We will not have a chance to correct any mistakes for another ten years and will live with the effects of an undercount for a decade. We must treat this emergency with the importance it demands.

In ten years, we will either look back knowing we seized the opportunity to control our economic and political destiny or wonder why we lost out on billions for ordinary New Yorkers to save millions upfront. When you consider the choice, the answer is obvious. The City and State must work together and fully fund this effort.

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Steven Choi is executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition. City Council Members Carlos Menchaca and Carlina Rivera are co-chairs of the Council’s Census Task Force. On Twitter @SteveChoiNY & @cmenchaca & @CarlinaRivera.

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Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

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Heading in the Right Direction on City and State Census Funding, But More To Do Mon, 29 Apr 2019 04:00:00 +0000
State Budget Includes $20 Million in Census Outreach Funding, Half What Advocates Wanted https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8413-state-budget-includes-20-million-in-census-outreach-funding-half-what-advocates-wanted https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8413-state-budget-includes-20-million-in-census-outreach-funding-half-what-advocates-wanted nyic census rally

Monday census day of action rally (photo: @thenyic)


The new state budget agreement between Governor Andrew Cuomo and the state Legislature includes $20 million in U.S. Census outreach funding, half of what community advocates say is needed to ensure an adequate count of New York’s population next year. The budget that came together over the weekend and was voted through by the two legislative houses early Monday immediately took effect, given the April 1 start to the state fiscal year.

The $20 million in state census funding is for the year leading up to when the official count begins, coincidentally, on April 1 of next year. Governor Andrew Cuomo had not including any census outreach funding in his executive budget proposal earlier this year. As advocates and some lawmakers pushed for $40 million in funding to be included in the state budget, the final spending plan included half that amount. On Monday, one year from the start of the count, the New York Counts 2020 coalition and New York City Office of the Census held a day of action across the city, with disappointment about the state funding figure hanging over the effort, but having no apparent impact on the enthusiasm of the activists involved.

The Census, the constitutionally mandated decennial population count, is expected to be particularly challenging in 2020, raising concerns of a significant undercount in New York. The federal government is underfunding the U.S. Census Bureau, hiring far fewer enumerators than the last count in 2010. The census is shifting to a primarily digital methodology, encouraging households to fill out the questionnaire online, which could lead to lower response rates by older populations and in communities that lack access to the internet.

And New York is home to large populations of immigrants, including undocumented immigrants, who are less likely to respond to the census, a trend that could be particularly acute under the Trump administration, which has fostered and promoted a heightened atmosphere of fear in those communities. Those fears are exacerbated by the administration’s attempts to include a citizenship question on the census, which is the subject of a legal fight that will be heard by the United States Supreme Court in three weeks (President Trump himself pushed for the question on Twitter Monday).

All those factors combined could spell disaster for New York State. An undercount could lead to significant cuts in federal funding -- New York receives as much as $80 billion annually -- and could result in the loss of two seats in the House of Representatives (the loss of one seat is expected given broader population trends).

New York Counts 2020, a coalition of advocates and issue-focused organizations, has been pushing the state to provide at least $40 million in funding to help reach hard-to-count communities. But state action has been slow and unsatisfactory, advocates have said. Besides the level of funding of outreach efforts, the state was also late to create a commission to examine census issues. It blew past a deadline to issue a report.

On Monday, the New York Counts coalition partnered with New York City’s Office of the Census, headed by director Julie Menin, and hundreds of volunteers in a day of action to mark one year till the 2020 Census kicks off. “Given the state's disappointing $20 million investment in Census outreach, we must work twice as hard,” on outreach efforts, said Steven Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, which is a facilitator of the larger coalition, in a statement.

“Our share of over $800 billion of annual federal funding and our voice and power in Congress are at risk, and the stakes could not be higher,” Menin said in a statement.

While the state has been lax in its efforts, the city has been far more proactive. De Blasio’s January appointment of Menin to head the city’s census office was followed later that month by New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson’s announcement of a 2020 Census Task Force, chaired by Council Members Carlina Rivera and Carlos Menchaca.

In an op-ed in Gotham Gazette on Monday, Rivera and Menchaca also expressed disappointment that the state hadn’t provided the funding needed for adequate outreach. “We need more details about how this funding will be distributed and will keep fighting to ensure that community based organizations in New York City get the funding they need to get an accurate count locally,” they wrote.

A new city budget, due by July 1, will offer city officials an opportunity to put more money behind outreach efforts in the five boroughs.

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

Ben Max contributed to this story.

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State Budget Includes $20 Million in Census Outreach Funding, Half What Advocates Wanted Mon, 01 Apr 2019 04:00:00 +0000
State Census Commission Yet to Be Named or Funded as Key Initial Deadline Passes https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8221-state-census-commission-yet-to-be-named-or-funded-as-key-initial-deadline-passes https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8221-state-census-commission-yet-to-be-named-or-funded-as-key-initial-deadline-passes govcuomo pass

(photo by Governor's Office)


A legally-mandated state commission that was meant to examine the challenges in counting New York’s population for the 2020 Census and craft recommendations to achieve an accurate count has not been named despite having already missed a January 10 deadline for issuing its initial report.

Last year, Governor Andrew Cuomo and the state Legislature included in the state budget a measure to create the New York State 2020 Complete Count Commission, a 16-member body charged with studying the reasons for past census undercounts and plotting ways to improve performance in the high-stakes effort. By January 10 of this year, the commission was supposed to issue a report on those causes and lay out a comprehensive plan, along with budget projections, for ensuring an accurate count in 2020.

But the commission hasn’t been created, nor did the governor propose any funding for census efforts in his executive budget proposal released on January 15.

Cuomo only mentioned the census sparingly in his State of the State speech that day, celebrating the fact that a federal judge ruled in favor of the lawsuit led by the New York Attorney General’s office against the inclusion of a citizenship question on the census. “Now let's go out there and count every New Yorker so we get what we deserve in the state of New York,” Cuomo said, without outlining any other details of the state’s census efforts.

The upcoming census is expected to be a particularly challenging effort for states as the federal government is putting far fewer resources than experts say are necessary to fully count the population of the entire country as required by the constitution every ten years. New York already has its fair share of challenges.

The state is home to many “hard-to-count” communities, where at least a quarter of the population does not self-respond to the census questionnaire. This is particularly true for immigrant communities with sizeable undocumented populations, where fears of interacting with federal authorities has been heightened under the Trump administration. There have also historically been other hard-to-count communities, including low-, middle- and upper-middle income African-Americans.

The 2020 Census will also be the first to mostly employ digital technology, another obstacle, especially in rural communities with limited access to the internet and among older people. An undercount can be disastrous for New York, with consequences ranging from cuts in federal funding -- New York receives as much as $80 billion each year -- and the loss of congressional representation. Due to population loss the state is projected to lose at least one congressional seat, with possibly another on the line depending on the count. After the 2010 Census, New York lost two congressional seats.

Half of the state commission’s members were meant to be appointed by the governor; three each were meant to be appointed by the state Assembly speaker and the Senate majority leader, while the minority leaders in both houses were supposed to appoint one member each.

“We have yet to receive all recommendations from appointing bodies for the commission,” said

Hazel Crampton-Hays, a spokesperson for the governor, in an email. “We are hopeful that the new Senate Majority will be more committed to the census effort.”

A spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins did not respond to a request for comment. Mike Whyland, a spokesperson for Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, said in an email that the speaker appointed three individuals in August, though he did not name the members or provide any further details when asked. Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb’s spokesperson did not provide comment.

The governor’s office did note that the state has launched an effort to ensure the accuracy of census address data, which Gotham Gazette reported on in December. “In 2019, Governor Cuomo will launch a comprehensive campaign to protect the integrity of the 2020 Census and to ensure that every New Yorker is counted,” Crampton-Hays added.

New York City, meanwhile, is forging ahead with its own census efforts. Mayor Bill de Blasio allocated $4.3 million in funding in the current year’s budget for the census and is expected to add more in the budget for the 2020 fiscal year, which begins July 1 of this year. Earlier this month, de Blasio also announced that Julie Menin, the commissioner of the Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment, would take on a new role as Director of the Census for the city.

Community advocates are worried that the state is not taking the 2020 census seriously. The New York Counts 2020 coalition, made up of nonprofits and community-based organizations from across the state, commissioned a study by the Fiscal Policy Institute that estimates about $40 million in total funding is needed to ensure an accurate count. These organizations will be particularly crucial in order to reach immigrant communities and the most vulnerable residents of the state.

“Governor Cuomo must take crucial steps now so that every person in our state is counted in the 2020 census,” said Rachel Bloom, director of public policy & programs at Citizens Union and the co-chair of the state and local government committee of New York Counts 2020. “New York desperately needs funding in the state budget for census outreach as well as a Complete Count Commission. An accurate census count impacts not just our political representation, but New York’s federal funding. Money and resources spent now will benefit New Yorkers enormously for the decade to come.”

[READ: On Census Preparations, State Lags While City, Advocacy Organizations & Business Community Move Ahead]

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

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State Census Commission Yet to Be Named or Funded as Key Initial Deadline Passes Tue, 22 Jan 2019 05:00:00 +0000
On Census Preparations, State Lags While City, Advocacy Organizations & Business Community Move Ahead https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8127-on-2020-census-preparations-state-lags-while-city-business-community-advocates https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8127-on-2020-census-preparations-state-lags-while-city-business-community-advocates nyc map via city planning

(image via New York City's City Planning Department)


This is part of AGENDA 2019, a joint Gotham Gazette-City Limits project
Find the rest of the series here

“It might seem early, but given the challenges that are facing the decennial census in 2020, it’s not early enough,” said Steven Romalewski, director of the mapping service at the Center for Urban Research, CUNY Graduate Center. Advocates, government officials, and members of the business community all agree with that sentiment, that early preparation is essential if New York is to ensure a full accounting of its population in the 2020 Census, wherein the stakes are immense.

The census, the federal government’s constitutionally required every-ten-year count of residents of the United States, forms the basis for each individual state’s electoral representation, both locally and at the federal level, determines levels of federal funding states receive each year, and underpins dozens of human-facing programs carried out by state and local governments. Officials and advocates in New York City have already begun to marshall resources as they prepare for the nearly two-year effort that lays ahead, but the state has yet to pick up its feet despite a looming deadline.

Many view 2020 as a particularly challenging year for the Herculean effort of carrying out the census. Besides the usual logistical challenges of reaching hard-to-count communities, 2020 is set to see lower-than-expected funding from the federal government, a shift towards digital methodology, and the inclusion of a citizenship question, though it is the subject of ongoing litigation spearheaded by New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood. All that comes amid a heightened atmosphere of anxiety among minority and immigrant communities who fear the repercussions of being counted by a federal administration overtly hostile to their interests while already being most likely to be undercounted.

In each census, the federal government has to work hand-in-hand with local counterparts to reach hard-to-count communities, those where at least a quarter or more of households do not fill out the initial census questionnaire sent out by the Census Bureau. In New York State, 75.8 percent of households responded to the 2010 census, according to estimates by the CUNY Graduate Center, which worked with civil rights organizations across the country to create maps of census tracts to identify hard-to-count communities. The rest must then be counted in person by the thousands of enumerators hired by the Census Bureau, a labor- and time-intensive process that includes a lot of door-knocking and also requires additional resources and funding.

Advocates and experts warn that the Trump administration’s underfunding of the Census Bureau and attempt to include a question about citizenship may lead to a grossly inaccurate count, the effects of which will be felt for the better part of the decade before the next census in 2030 and could hit New York, especially New York City, particularly hard. An undercount can cement the problems faced by the most vulnerable members of society -- seniors, children, the homeless, for instance -- and exacerbate them by creating a false dataset based on which government crafts policy and budgets.

City officials already recognize these challenges that lay ahead. Deputy Mayor for Strategic Policy Initiatives Phil Thompson is leading the de Blasio administration’s broad census outreach efforts, coordinating with partners in state government, community-based organizations, and the private sector, which is particularly involved in the current census cycle. Thompson pointed to two main outreach targets: immigrant communities and black communities.

“In immigrant communities, it’s always a challenge to get a good count in New York City because it is so diverse,” Thompson said in a phone interview. “There are so many immigrant communities, which people may not even hear about sometimes. [The questionnaire is] not in their language. They’re new. They get skipped.”

The Census Bureau currently only translates its questionnaire into about 20 languages, he said, and New York City residents speak more than 100. The city has already allocated about $4.3 million to its census efforts in the current fiscal year, ending June 30, 2019, which will be used to conduct outreach through ethnic media, Thompson said.

census hard to count map via cuny grad centerBut the bigger fear among the large undocumented immigrant population that resides in the city is that census answers may be passed on to immigration enforcement authorities, even though that is prohibited under the law. “Now, the law prohibits passing information on from the census to any other agency and individual data is not allowed to be passed on, but folks are scared anyway,” Thompson said.

[pictured: New York City census hard-to-count map, via CUNY Graduate Center Mapping Service]

Black communities, the other main target of the city’s efforts, have had historically low rates of filling out the census, Thompson noted. “That goes for people who live in public housing or in low-income housing. Many people may have an extra person living in the house and they’re afraid that the census comes and does a count of who’s in the household, they may get in trouble...And then some mysteries. We don’t know why middle-income and upper-middle income black people in Southeast Queens don’t fill out the census, but historically they’ve had low rates as well.”

2020 will also mark a major shift in how the census is carried out, with a greater reliance on digital technology. As opposed to the past method of sending out the questionnaire by mail, the Census Bureau will send out a digital code by mail, encouraging people to fill out the questionnaire on the Census Bureau’s website.

When people do not respond, they will be sent a full paper questionnaire to mail back. People can still request a paper questionnaire, particularly if they lack easy access to the internet. “And that’s a challenge because not everybody utilizes iPads and computers,” Thompson said. “Not everyone’s on the internet. So in communities with low broadband access, they are more likely not to fill out the census.”

In response, the city plans to set up help desks at public libraries and schools to facilitate access, with several public-facing city agencies such as the Department of Education and Department of Homeless Services also involved in the effort. The de Blasio administration is encouraging the private sector to provide financial assistance to community organizations and will also put more funding into hiring immigration lawyers at immigrant affairs offices. The city will also hire 13 district office directors to match the 13 offices being set up by the Census Bureau across the five boroughs, and is helping recruit for the 20,000 or so enumerators that the Bureau will hire to conduct door-knocking and outreach in hard-to-count communities in the city. According to the Bureau’s estimates, they will need roughly 44,442 enumerators for the entire New York region. There are also jobs under the city’s Summer Youth Employment Program focused on democracy and the census, training young people between the ages of 16 and 24 to organize in their communities.

“We’re also telling people if you don’t like what’s going on in terms of a lot of this anti-immigrant rhetoric and so forth, the best thing to do is to not go and hide in the shadows but stand up and be counted,” Thompson said, touching upon the challenge involved in convincing people already wary of the Trump administration to trust that administration’s census process.

Community advocates, in particular, are aware of the pressing need to ensure an accurate count. Liz OuYang, coordinator of New York Counts 2020, a statewide coalition of community organizations, said the upcoming census would be a “heavy lift” compared to 2010. “More than ever, community-based organizations are going to be needed as trusted organizations that people can go to in light of the political climate,” she said. These groups are particularly vital in reaching undocumented immigrants who are fearful or skeptical of the federal government.  

Ahead of the 2010 census, community organizations in New York City received only about $2 million in total from private sources, OuYang said, leading to an undercount. This time around, the coalition is pushing the city and state to fund phone-banking and door-knocking operations. They are urging legislators to agree to that demand and plan to rally in Albany, the state capital, in March, ahead of the passage of the state budget.

The coalition is also aiding local Complete Count Committees, including by creating a census training webinar for the committee recently launched by Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and the Brooklyn Community Foundation. “Because of the undercount in 2010 and because of the macro-political climate that we’re in, and the census being allowed to be completed online, you’re going to need a lot of help from community-based organizations,” OuYang said.

The federal government appropriated about $2.8 billion for the Census for the 2018 fiscal year, which ended September 30. But the Census Bureau has requested only about $3.8 billion for the 2019 fiscal year, which most experts and stakeholders believe is inadequate. Across the country there are expected to be 200,000 fewer enumerators, who conduct the on-the-ground follow up, because of the lower funding. What’s more, unlike past census efforts, the federal government appears unlikely to approve a waiver that would allow the Commerce Department to hire non-citizens to act as census enumerators in order to reach hard-to-reach communities. Such a waiver was approved by the administrations of Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush.

“We don’t know if Trump will do a waiver and if not that’s a problem,” said Deputy Mayor Thompson. “So we’ll have to lean in as a city to get the right people because the most trusted messengers in communities that are fearful are people from the communities.”

In an email, Census Bureau spokesperson Kristina Barrett said the agency was working within the restrictions of the annual appropriations act. “There is not a ban, and we are still pursuing all legal flexibilities provided by Congress to hire the workforce we will need to conduct an accurate 2020 Census,” she wrote. She said the Bureau is allowed to temporarily employ translators under certain exceptions and can hire permanent legal residents applying for U.S. citizenship, people admitted as refugees or granted asylum who have filed a declaration of intent to become a permanent resident and then a citizen when eligible.

To make up for the expected shortfall in enumerators, particularly in undocumented communities, the New York Counts coalition is pushing the state government to ensure adequate funding for counting efforts. A study from the Fiscal Policy Institute, commissioned by the coalition, estimated that need at about $40 million, roughly $2 for each of New York’s 19 million residents. But so far, the state has made no commitment while the city’s $4.3 million is something, but far from adequate. (The city is expected to add more funding in the next fiscal year which begins July 1, 2019.)  

“Without funding, community-based organizations are not, that’s the bottom line, are not gonna be able to do full outreach,” OuYang said. “And it takes community-based organizations, trusted organizations in the community to really mobilize people and be the bridge here.”

In the current fiscal year, Governor Andrew Cuomo and the state Legislature approved the creation of a New York State Complete Count Commission, which is meant to study past undercounts and issue a comprehensive action plan for 2020 by January 10, 2019. But with just over a month till its report is due, that commission has yet to be formed, raising concerns that the state is dragging its feet. “I think that the governor needs to prioritize this, this is huge,” OuYang said.

A spokesperson for Cuomo said in an email that the commission is in the final stages of being assembled but did not provide any personnel details or proposed budget numbers. “A complete and accurate count is critical for New York to receive proper representation in Washington and our full allocation of federal funding, and the State is committed to being a full partner in a robust outreach effort so that every New Yorker is counted,” the spokesperson said.

The state has, however, been using data analytics to ensure that the Census Bureau’s Master Address File, which will dictate where the initial census questionnaires are sent in March 2020, is complete. According to the governor’s office, addresses in the MAF were compared to state databases and agency records and hundreds of thousands of corrections and additions were submitted to the Census Bureau for review this past summer. There have also been 40 meetings across the state to encourage the creation of complete count committees.

It’s likely that the governor will provide more clarity about the overall census effort in January at his State of the State speech, where he will lay out his broader agenda for the year. His executive budget proposal with funding numbers will follow soon after.

Thompson, the deputy mayor, said he was optimistic about the state coming through and that operations will likely ramp up with the start of the new year. In the meantime, New York City government and members of the business community are picking up the slack.

“So far New York State hasn’t put up a [funding] number and we were actually helping other towns and cities in New York organize their census operations because the state commission on the census hasn’t met yet,” Thompson said. “We’ve had nice conversations and I’m looking forward to working with the state around this, but right now we’re, I think it’s safe to say, ahead of the state.”

He noted that the New York Banker’s Association had offered to make its locations available to get the word out about the census. “I’m most excited about the responses we’re getting from every sector of the city to come together,” Thompson said. “The business community is very forthcoming.”

The Association for a Better New York, a prominent business coalition in the city, announced on December 3 that it had hired Melva Miller, who was previously deputy borough president of Queens, to lead its census efforts, the broad contours of which had been announced previously. “This is an all hands on deck effort,” Miller said in a phone interview.  

ABNY has been marshalling resources for nearly a year to assist New York’s efforts. It has been conducting focus groups in hard-to-count communities, gathering data and information on the obstacles people may face. It also launched a poll last week in those communities “to get an understanding of the census and what that means for them.”

The organization will also pull together a larger messaging campaign, also targeted at particular communities, to urge people to fill out the census on their own, “because unless you can really spell out what the implications of an undercount means to folks, people aren’t excited about it,” Miller said. “No one wants to fill out a form...How can you make it sexy? How can you make it exciting so that people know that this is really critical to the health and the quality of life for all of us, especially New Yorkers?”

Miller noted that the implications of an undercount go beyond federal funding -- New York receives about $80 billion each year -- and a potential loss of representation in Congress.

Gotham Gazette: “There’s voting rights and redistricting implications, there’s public and private research on social and economic issues, and something that folks don’t talk about that probably resonates with the private sector is that having reliable and good data dictates how businesses do business,” she said. “So as companies are doing their needs assessments and assessments of areas in which they might want to relocate or expand, they rely on data that talks about the population. Who lives there, what’s their education level. And then in terms of workforce. People love coming and operating in New York because of our talented and diverse workforce. And quite frankly, we’ve benefitted from programs that assist and support that workforce. And all of that is at stake when you undercount a population like New York.”

Besides the decennial count, the Census Bureau also does the annual American Community Survey, which delves deeper into subsets of census data and then extrapolates that information to make assumptions about the larger population. “It really has a ripple effect,” said Romalewski of the CUNY Graduate Center, one of the area’s top census experts. “If the count is not done well in 2020, that will have an ongoing impact throughout the decade.”

He did note that there was at least one upside to all the challenges posed by the Trump administration, echoing what has been something of a theme on a variety of political and policy matters. “The silver lining in all of this is that there’s a concerted, coordinated effort early on to make sure people understand the importance of the census and that they participate fully,” he said.

The biggest “what if” factor in the entire census process is the legal battle over the inclusion of the citizenship question. The Justice Department is facing off in federal courts across the country against a broad array of plaintiffs including dozens of states and cities, including New York, immigrant advocacy groups, and the American Civil Liberties Union. Both sides issued closing arguments in late November in a trial in federal court in Manhattan -- other trials are on the horizon in other states -- and a judge is expected to issue a decision within weeks. The U.S. Supreme Court also agreed last month to hear arguments over whether Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross can be deposed over how the decision to include the citizenship question was made.

“The thing I worry about the most is the fear tactics succeeding,” said Deputy Mayor Thompson. But he was undeterred even by the prospect that the highest court in the land could rule against the cities and states seeking to protect undocumented immigrants by ensuring they are counted. He likened it to the country’s history of racial segregation and slavery, which were held up for decades by courts and a Congress that maintained both were legal.

“So just having a Supreme Court go against you doesn’t mean you give up,” he said. “What changed segregation was actually when churches, ordinary Americans said enough is enough. And we have to have that attitude now. We’ll fight back...We have a history of fighting for our democracy. It wasn’t given to anybody, we got it through struggle and we might have to struggle again.”

This is part of AGENDA 2019, a joint Gotham Gazette-City Limits project
Find the rest of the series here

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

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On Census Preparations, State Lags While City, Advocacy Organizations & Business Community Move Ahead Sun, 09 Dec 2018 05:00:00 +0000
An Imperfect Victory for New York Workers https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/6264-an-imperfect-victory-for-new-york-workers https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/6264-an-imperfect-victory-for-new-york-workers 15 rally


Millions of New Yorkers are celebrating a deal this week to raise the state’s minimum wage. The deal puts a better future in sight for families around the state and sends a powerful signal to other states considering wage hikes of their own.

The deal is a testament to the power of organizing. Today’s headlines would be unimaginable just a few years ago. When New York Communities for Change organized the first fast food worker strike – almost four years ago – people thought we were crazy.

As the federal government repeatedly stalled on a meaningful increase to the nationwide minimum wage, it seemed that higher wages were out of reach.

In response, fast-food and other low-wage workers rose up to fight for better wages and a better quality of life, sparking a movement that spread to cities and towns across the nation.

It is no coincidence that the Fight for $15 began right here in New York City. The level of inequality in our city has long been one of the worst of the country – and has grown to historic proportions in recent years.

According to a 2014 Census Bureau survey, the top 5 percent of Manhattan households made 88 times as much as the poorest 20 percent. And as of last year, workers earning minimum wage could not afford median rent in a single neighborhood in New York City.

Wages have long failed to keep pace with the growing cost of living. In fact, the Economic Policy Institute found that the statewide wage of $9.00 per hour was well below what it would be if it had simply kept pace with inflation since 1970. The same study found that, accounting for both inflation and a higher cost of living, the minimum wage today would match its 1970 value if it reached $14.27 per hour this year – nearly the level agreed on by the New York State Legislature.

Governor Cuomo made the right move last year by mandating higher wages for fast-food workers – those on the front lines fighting for reform. But leading industry by industry risked neglecting too many workers. In order to truly create change, the rules must apply equally to everybody. Last week’s deal did that, letting workers across the economy finally dream bigger than the next paycheck.

The deal is a victory for New York City workers. However, it bypasses hard-working families in Upstate New York. While over a million low-wage workers in the city will see their wages rise to $15 per hour by the end of 2018, those in Long Island will only reach $15 in almost six years and those upstate will need to wait five years only to reach $12.50. Although the deal allows wages to rise to $15 after that, the rate will depend on review and inflation and could take years.

It is a painfully long stretch given the growing cost of living north of the city. The New York State Comptroller, for example, has found housing costs skyrocketing, with at least one in five people in every county – including those far upstate like Warren and Monroe – spending more than a third of their salary on rent. In some counties half of residents must spend that much. With added expenses like utilities and food, it leaves little room to save up for college or retirement.

It is imperative that legislators now finish the job and give all New Yorkers a chance at a living wage.

Just days before Albany finalized its deal; California showed us that a $15 wage statewide is possible. Our state must fulfill the promise of Fight for $15 statewide and let all workers adequately provide for themselves and their families. Otherwise New Yorkers will continue doing what they have been doing for almost four years: risking everything to provide a better life for their families.

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JoEllen Chernow is Director of Economic Justice at Center for Popular Democracy. Jonathan Westin is Executive Director of New York Communities for Change. On Twitter: @popdemoc and @nychange.

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An Imperfect Victory for New York Workers Mon, 04 Apr 2016 22:00:33 +0000