The 2020 Census

The 2020 Census

There has been much commotion made about the upcoming 2020 Census, with President Donald Trump ultimately abandoning his plans to add a citizenship question to the census questionnaire, which drew ire from immigrant activists across the country.

Dictated by the U.S. Constitution, the Census’ goal is to count every person living in the country, which helps decide “the number of seats each state has in the U.S. House of Representatives and is also used to distribute billions in federal funds to local communities,” according to the Census website.

Local politicians and census workers understand the importance of getting federal dollars poured into their communities; those dollars would improve schools, housing and medical care. The issue is a cause for concern for many in Brooklyn, particularly in Crown Heights, where Black and Hispanic residents have been undercounted in past censuses.

According to Census data from 2017, Crown Heights, alongside Prospect Heights, has over 141,000 residents, 56 percent being Black and 12 percent being Hispanic; Black and Hispanic households are at risk of being undercounted in the Census, according to Shelley Worrell, who works for the New York Regional Census Center’s field division.

“Research over decades has shown that people who are renters, non-English speakers, children, low-income, or those who change residences frequently are more likely to be missed in the census,” Worrell said in an email to the Nostrand Avenue News. “The more complex the household is, the greater the risk that a person in that household won’t be included on the census questionnaire. Confusion, fear and misunderstanding of who should be counted at an address contributes to the undercount.”

Local Brooklyn politicians are committed to getting an accurate count of residents in the district they represent. In August, Congresswoman Yvette Clarke, who represents Brooklyn’s ninth congressional district, spoke at a town hall at Brooklyn College, where she warned residents about what’s at stake if they’re not counted, according to the Bklyner.

“Things like classroom sizes, pre-school classes, access to neighborhood health care, and even, believe it or not, the length of time it takes for our stoplights to change,” said Clarke, according to the Bklyner report.

State Senator Zellnor Myrie, who represents NY senate district 20, which includes the Crown Heights neighborhood, formed the Complete Count Committee, alongside Assemblywoman Diana Richardson, to help raise awareness of the upcoming census by working with community leaders. He’s also asked the state for $4 million to help Brooklyn with its effort to count its residents, according to the Brooklyn Eagle.

“My office and colleagues at all levels of government are putting all hands-on deck to get everyone counted in the Census,” Zellnor told the Nostrand Avenue News. “We will continue to do everything we can to get everyone counted.”

In addition to his office’s efforts, Zellnor is working closely with the U.S. Census Bureau and the NYC Mayor’s Office for the Census. He believes that working with organizations within the community is one of the best ways to get information out there.

In April, Esmerelda Simmons, founder and executive director of the Center for Law and Social Justice, called on Mayor Bill de Blasio to increase city funding from $20 million to $40 million to deal with undercounting in Black and Hispanic neighborhoods, Nostrand Avenue News previously reported.

Immigrant residents may be fearful to participate in the upcoming census because of fears of deportation, largely in part because of raids from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, more commonly referred to as ICE, Zellnor said.

Census forms are mailed out in March of 2020 and are to be sent back by April 1. With all the organizing and activity to build awareness, the hope is more replies come back then than in 2010. For those who don't reply there will be a small army of census workers who will go out door-to-door to complete the count. If all goes well, New York State will keep its current congressional delegation of 27 as the extra people counted will have the effect of a seeming increase in population

“I am confident that the most significant barrier between our community and a full count is awareness,” Zellnor said. “As long as we get the chance to explain why the census is important and how much we stand to lose in an undercount, everyone will say, ‘count me in!’”

– Teddy Grant

UpdatesRobbie Klein