Census funding in budget leaves advocates wanting

Monday, April 1, 2019

The $20 million for census outreach funding in the new state budget has community organizations, libraries and immigrant advocates worried that New Yorkers will be undercounted next year.

New York is already off to a slow start compared to states like California, which committed more than $100 million for census preparation, and a census commission tasked with making recommendations for next year’s count wasn’t even assembled by Gov. Andrew Cuomo until a year after its work was supposed to be completed.

The commission has begun holding hearings around the state to gauge the outreach and technology needs to ensure a complete count, and advocates and experts have testified that New York will need to spend in excess of $80 million.

“Based on the requests submitted by community based organization and libraries … $20 million seems pretty inadequate considering the job ahead of us,” said Lauren Moore, who serves on the commission and is chairwoman of the New York Library Association’s Census 2020 Task Force.

Brooklyn Community Foundation President and CEO Cecilia Clarke said in a statement that it was good the census efforts weren’t “completely ignored” in the budget, but called the funding allocation “woefully insufficient.”

State Budget Director Robert Mujica said in March that funding would be determined by the recommendation of the commission, which isn’t expected to finish its hearings until May. The governor’s office did not immediately respond to a question about how the $20 million funding amount was determined.

Moore hopes that when the commission finishes its work, there will be a chance to secure additional funding. The New York Library Association has called for $40 million to fund technology upgrades and training, and a separate $40 million was called for by activists and state lawmakers to fund outreach.

“Now is the moment where we need those funds,” Moore said. “We are one year out from this huge effort and we still are unsure of how much funding will be available.”

She also said there are serious concerns about the way the budget outlines the distribution of the funding.