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Census urgency rises

New York Teacher

The importance of every New Yorker being counted in the 2020 Census has taken on fresh urgency in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and the recession it has triggered.

Funding for New York City public schools is at stake.

The Census count will determine whether New York City and New York State get their fair shares of federal funding for the next decade.

So far, the city’s and the state’s participation rate in the Census spell real trouble for us. As of April 22, New York State had a 45.2% response rate, compared with the national average of 51%. In the city, the percentage is lower still: just 40.5%. The count began in mid-March and now runs through October.

Census data determines the size of our state’s allocation for federal Title I funds, the National School Lunch program, special education and career and technical education. It also affects federal funding for our state’s hospitals, senior centers, subways, roads and bridges and much more.

The undercount of New Yorkers in the previous Census translated into the loss of billions of dollars in federal funding. In 2010, New York City had a response rate of 61.6% — far below the national average of 74%.

The recession brought on by the coronavirus crisis will have profound consequences on New York City and New York State budgets for years to come. The Independent Budget Office, a nonpartisan city agency, in April forecast a loss of 475,000 jobs in New York City in the year that started April 1. That job loss, the agency calculated, will translate into an estimated tax revenue shortfall of $9.7 billion for New York City in fiscal years 2020 and 2021.

Our failure to be counted could contribute to devastating cuts to New York City services, including public schools.

Please fill out your form and encourage your extended family and your students’ parents to fill out their forms, too — think of it as a homework or extra-credit assignment. By law, the U.S. Census Bureau cannot share the information with anyone. 

We can’t afford a repeat of 2010.