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Editorial

Fill out the census — the deadline is Sept. 30

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Elected leaders from across Nassau County are urging — even pleading with — residents to fill out the U.S. census if they have not already done so, and time is running out. The census count will end Sept. 30.

The census was originally scheduled to wind down Oct. 31, but in August the U.S. Census Bureau suddenly reduced the time frame by a month. In August, however, four out of every 10 Americans had yet to file their census forms, according to National Public Radio. That has led to fears of severe undercounting, particularly in minority communities.

That is why elected leaders across the county have held news conferences of late, encouraging residents to file their forms to ensure that the states have the correct number of U.S. representatives and that local governments receive all the federal aid they are rightly entitled to — both are based on population — and to assure residents of color, particularly recent immigrants, that they have nothing to fear from the census. Many immigrants reportedly fear that filing might jeopardize their status, particularly after President Trump pushed for inclusion of a citizenship question on the census form, a requirement that the Supreme Court shot down in July 2019.

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, a Democrat from Baldwin, recently held a news conference in Roosevelt with U.S. Rep. Kathleen Rice, a Democrat from Garden City. In August, Curran appeared at Glen Cove City Hall with U.S Rep. Tom Suozzi, a Democrat from Glen Cove. The census was the focus of both gatherings.

Local leaders are right to be concerned. The Village of Freeport’s census response rate was 54 percent as of early this month; Elmont and Roosevelt, 53 percent; and the Village of Hempstead, 49 percent.

This is indeed an urgent matter. Rice noted that a 1 percent undercount in the census could cost a local school district or government tens of thousands of dollars, if not hundreds of thousands, in federal aid per year. A severe undercount could cost millions.

Overall, Nassau County’s response rate was solid at 73 percent, according to the most recent data, but even that number is concerning, given the amount of aid that could be sacrificed by an undercount of more than 25 percent.

“When it comes to the census, the stakes have never been higher for Nassau,” Curran said at the Roosevelt news conference, addressing the coronavirus pandemic. “This census is about more than just ensuring we finally get our fair share of federal government dollars when we need it most. This year’s census is a once-in-a-decade opportunity for us to directly combat the inequities this crisis has laid bare.”

According to the Census Bureau, you should be counted where you were living and sleeping most of the time as of April 1. If you’re responding for your home, count everyone who lives and sleeps there most of the time. That includes children, foster children, roommates, and any family members or friends who are living with you, even temporarily.

If someone is staying with you because of the pandemic, however, they should be counted where they usually live. This includes college students, who should still be counted at school. If they live in student housing, the college will count them. If they live off campus, they should respond for their off-campus addresses.

Filling out the census takes no more than 10 minutes, and you can do so securely online at www.2020census.gov. To reach the U.S. Census Bureau for help, call (844) 330-2020 for English speakers and (844) 468-2020 for Spanish speakers. Representatives are available daily from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.

What the Constitution says

The U.S. Constitution mandates that the country count its population once every 10 years. The results are used to adjust or redraw electoral districts, based on where populations have increased or decreased.

State legislatures or independent bipartisan commissions are responsible for redrawing congressional districts. The U.S. Census Bureau provides states with population counts for this purpose.

Everyone living the United States and its five territories is required by law to be counted in the census.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau