ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Albany is trailing behind the nation on filling out the census. There’s about 100,000 people living in Albany, but around half of households haven’t yet been counted in this year’s census.
Mayor Kathy Sheehan says although coronavirus canceled many community events for the city to encourage its citizens to take the census, they’re still making efforts.
“There was a book giveaway in West Hill, we got a lot of people to fill it out there. We will also be going to the parks and pools, places where we know people will be,” she says.
Only about 50 percent of Albany households have self-responded to the 2020 census. The city is behind the rest of New York at a 57 percent response rate and around 60 percent nationwide. Mayor Sheehan says with COVID after effects strangling municipal budgets, they’re looking to grants to get the resources people need.
“The first thing the government looks at is, what’s the population, and if people haven’t been counted, then we aren’t going to get that funding,” Sheehan explains to NEWS10’s Mikhaela Singleton.
She says how the government tracks the population can change the whole face of local neighborhoods.
“When I hear people saying they would like a grocery store in their neighborhood or more resources, when I hear people would like more activities for children or a community center in West Hill, for example, people need to be counted so we know they’re there and we can make a compelling case for why our community programs need that funding,” she explains.
She also says the census affects education and programs like the Boys and Girls Club and the YMCA.
“When people start wondering if they’re going to go back to school or not and whether or not they’re going to have internet access and devices, all of that funding, in order for us to meet their needs, starts with the census. If you like the Boys and Girls Club, if you like the YMCA, take the census. To add a daycare center or to add Pre-K seats, the organizations seeking that funding from the government or from a foundation, those agencies will be looking at census data,” she says.
“For the city of Albany, that’s Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, WIC, that’s the census. Education — such as the national school lunch and breakfast programs or transportation to schools, title one grants, Head Start, Pell grants. When we look at our infrastructure, we all want our roads improved and bridges and tunnels to be safe and mass transit systems to be on time. This is your opportunity to make sure your community gets its fair share of funding,” explains U.S. Census Bureau New York Regional Director Jeff Behler.
Behler says since the census only happens once every 10 years, this is the first time we’ve had so many options to fill it out.
“When you look at the majority of households that have responded, that have self responded to date, are using the Internet to self-respond,” he says.
He reminds Albany neighbors the census is 100 percent confidential and when census takers start knocking on doors in August, they’ll have gone through full safety training.
“Part of that training is COVID-19 training. Reminding them to wash their hands frequently, provide them with hand sanitizer, and the mask that they will wear when they’re working. Asking them, when you knock on the door, back up six feet, practice social distancing,” he says.
Every census taker will have an official census badge and bag. They will never ask for immigration status, social security numbers, or for banking information. They will also never solicit for money.
Mayor Sheehan says she’s heard her community calling for action and to put money where it’s needed most.
“We have the power to bring more resources to our community, and that power comes from filling out the census,” she says.
Visit My2020Census.gov to fill out your census or you can respond via mail or phone at 1(844) 330-2020.