Lena Cohen of the nonprofit group United Neighborhood Houses is training community center workers about the U.S. Census.
After the last census in 2010, New York State lost two seats in Congress, reducing its delegation in the House to 27 members.
“There’s a fear that we could lose additional representation in Washington at this time,” said Susan Stamler, the executive director of United Neighborhood Houses.
United Neighborhood Houses is part of a massive effort in the city to make sure every New Yorker is counted. The census determines not just congressional representation, but also federal funding.
“Things like housing, highways, transportation, food stamps, education. Essentially, everything that New Yorkers and people in Brooklyn need every day,” said Stamler.
Based on the 2010 census, New York receives about $73 billion a year.
“So fewer headcounts mean fewer dollars for New York state,” Stamler added.
A report from the State Complete Count Commission claims “unprecedented challenges” stand in the way of an accurate count. This will be the first census conducted mainly online, but nearly $15 percent of households in the city have no internet access. The city also has large numbers of non-English speakers, homeless people and undocumented immigrants, groups that are hard to count.
“The fear of the citizenship question that was struck down by the Supreme Court still has a chilling effect on the community,” said Stamler.
The community centers represented by United Neighborhood Houses serves about 750,000 New Yorkers.
The goal of the training session NY1 attended is for the workers at those centers to convince clients and other visitors to take part in the census.
Jennifer Vallone’s center, called University Settlement, is located on the Lower East Side.
“Hearing from me that it is confidential or hearing from census workers that it is confidential is one thing, but hearing it from your neighbor that it is confidential is another thing,” said Vallone.
They also will be hearing from the government.
By April 1, every New Yorker is supposed to receive a mailing explaining how to be counted.