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Getting everyone counted

Officials urge Freeport, communities of color to fill out census

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Local elected officials urged all Nassau County residents to complete the 2020 census at a news conference on Tuesday in Roosevelt.

U.S. Rep. Kathleen Rice said that while Nassau has a 71 percent response rate, the county’s communities of color continue to be undercounted.  

Freeport’s re-sponse rate was 54 percent; Elmont and Roosevelt, 53 percent; and the Village of Hempstead, 49 percent. 

“I cannot stress enough how critical it is that we get a complete and accurate count in the 2020 census for Long Island,” Rice said. “From hospitals and fire departments to Head Start and the National School Lunch Program, there are countless services and programs that have their funding levels set by census data. Even just a small undercount will cost Long Island much-needed funding.”

The census is a snapshot of the U.S. population that determines how congressional seats are apportioned and how more than $675 billion in federal and state funds is allocated, and it is a source of information for businesses, schools, nonprofits, researchers and journalists. 

Undercounts in the census can lead to shifts in the U.S. House of Representatives, alter state legislative districts, city councils and school boards, and change where billions of dollars for social services and aid are sent.

Rice said that a 1 percent difference could cost local governments and schools $110,000 in federal funding. 

To avoid inaccuracies and ensure that every person is counted, County Executive Laura Curran formed a Complete Count Committee last year, comprising more than 30 non-profit, labor, faith-based and community organizations to overcome barriers to a full count.

“When it comes to the census, the stakes have never been higher for Nassau,” Curran said at the news conference. “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.”

Curran referenced the fact that Covid-19 hit hardest in communities of color, such as Hempstead, Freeport and Elmont, demonstrating how great the need for get federal aid is to help lift these communities out of inequality. 

“Every family in Nassau County counts and must be counted — now more than ever — to enable our recovery from Covid-19 and to catalyze a future of hope and opportunity for every family,” said Rebecca Sanin, president and CEO of the Health and Welfare Council of Long Island. “The continued disparities in response rates will magnify the unjust inequities that already exist across Nassau County,” 

Yet, despite the county’s efforts, communities of color are behind in the census count. 

Helen Dorado Alessi, executive director for the Long Beach Latino Civic Association, said one reason for the low response rate within the immigrant community is because President Trump pushed for a citizenship question to be included on the census form last year. The Supreme Court, however, denied the inclusion of such a question. 

Regardless, Dorado Alessi said, the census became a source of fear in the Latino immigrant community. “The fear is palpable for immigrant families on the South Shore,” she explained. “But we need to fill out the census. It only takes 10 minutes to impact the next 10 years in Nassau County.” 

Although Trump issued another executive order in July not to count undocumented immigrants in the final census count, the move has already faced opposition in the federal courts. 

Trump also ordered that the census end early, on Sept. 30, rather than on the original deadline of Oct. 31. The order is being challenged by several states, including in New York by State Attorney General Letitia James.  

To complete the 2020 census, visit my2020census.gov, or call (844) 330-2020 for English and (844) 468-2020 for Spanish. All answers are confidential.