Op-Ed | Why the census counts

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Julie Menin, director of NYC Census 2020. (File photo)

By Julie Menin, Director of NYC Census 2020 

By now, hopefully, you’ve heard that the 2020 Census is underway that it’s safe and easy to fill out, and that it will shape our communities for the next decade. You may have even heard that the census determines our representation in government, and how hundreds of billions of dollars are distributed to our communities. But you might be thinking, how does that affect me?

Let’s take a step back and think about it in the context of a  budget. Recently, the Mayor and City Council finalized our budget for fiscal year 2021, sparking significant conversation about how and on what our public dollars are spent. The federal government’s budget, which is in the trillions, is much larger than New York City’s budget, and we’re going to need every federal dollar we can get to help close the gaping holes we have as a result of insufficient federal stimulus. That means we cannot miss out on a single cent of the $1.5 trillion in federal funds are allocated to states and cities across the country based on the census, which means that if we want the federal government’s spending to be based on true need, hard data — and focused on our communities that have suffered so much — we must all participate in the census.

So to make sure everyone understands just what’s at stake, let’s talk about what the census funds and why it matters for you.

Do you have children or family in NYC schools? The census determines millions in funding for Title I, special education, Head Start, child care, and more. In 2017, the city received $700 million in Title 1 funding.

Do you rely on affordable housing? The census helps fund the Department of Housing Preservation & Development (HPD), which administers nearly 40,000 Section 8 vouchers and helps fund new affordable housing priorities.

Do you have elderly people in your family? The census helps provide funding for meals for seniors either at senior centers or delivered to their homes, as well as nutrition education, transportation, legal, and employment services for seniors.

Do you go to the health centers in your community? The census helps provide the critical funding they need to serve you and your neighbors.

Do you care about improving your community? The census helps fund anti-poverty and community revitalization services, including employment, education, financial literacy, housing, nutrition, health services, and countless other social services.

In sum, if you live in NYC, you are almost guaranteed to be affected by the census. And that’s why it’s so critical that we’re all counted. Remember, the more of us are counted, the more funding we get. So help do your part – get counted today, spread the word, and let’s make sure our communities get the funding that is rightfully theirs.

Making Sense of the Census” is a weekly column from Julie Menin, Director of NYC Census 2020.  Every week we will be publishing pieces from Julie and guest authors laying out the facts and answering tough questions about this year’s census. Fill out the census now at my2020census.gov

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