Staten Islanders: Have You Filled Out the Census?

What is the Census?

Currently, social media and television ads are bombarding Staten Islanders about the United States Census. But many people are probably wondering — what exactly is the Census?

The Population and Housing Census (also known simply as the Census) is used to determine the number of people living in the United States and its five territories. The U.S. Census Bureau (a non-partisan government agency) administers the Census every ten years.1

Why Is the Census Important?

The Census provides decision-makers with an accurate assessment to determine the needs of the community. It helps these leaders allocate funding towards the Staten Island community for services such as hospitals, roads, and schools.

Every year, billions of dollars in federal funding are put toward bettering communities across the country. 1.5 trillion dollars will be spent every year for the next ten years to fund many federal programs including Medicaid, student loans, and low income and tax credit loans.

Where Does the Money Go?

In 2016, New York State received $34,588592,000 for Medicaid, $4,922,406,430 for Medicare Part B, and $777,387,531 towards special needs grants based on Census data.3 Furthermore, Census data helps the Federal Government decide how many representatives each district has in the House of Representatives. The Census data assists in drawing legislative districts at the state level. 

How Will the Census Impact Staten Island?

The Staten Island Analogy

You are planning to throw the “party of the decade” (socially distant of course due to COVID-19). In order to have enough food for the party, you tell your friends and family to confirm their attendance. You decided to purchase pizza from your favorite local Staten Island eatery, Denino’s, for the 25 people that RSVP’d to the party. On the day of the party, 50 people show up but you only have enough food to serve 25 people. This leaves you scrambling to provide food for all of your guests, which results in smaller portions of pizza to ensure all 50 people are fed. 

Tying it Together

Now let’s go back to the concept of filling out your Census questionnaire. If there are 50 people in your Staten Island neighborhood, but only 25 people complete their Census, more people are at the party than the ones that confirmed their attendance. The federal funding allocated for the next ten years to improve the potholes and provide bus services in your neighborhood will only be enough to serve the 25 people in your neighborhood that completed their Census, not the entire population.

Similarly to the “party of the decade,” the resources must be evenly distributed amongst the actual population. If only half the population completed their Census and reported living in the neighborhood, the number of resources given to the entire neighborhood population will be smaller as a result. Why should you get a smaller slice of pizza when you have the ability to get a whole slice for yourself? This is why it is imperative that you fill out your Census.

The Bottom Line

Not filling out the Census means an undercounted Staten Island population. This may result in an inaccurate representation in government and may prevent our communities from obtaining adequate resources.

Quick, Easy, and Important To Do

Staten Island UAU Census
United Activities Unlimited is part of the SI Counts Coalition working to make sure every Staten Islander completes the 2020 Census. Photo: UAU

It only takes 10 minutes to complete 10 questions that will impact our community funding for the next 10 years. The Census does not ask questions about your income, citizenship status, social security number, or any credit card information.1

This year it is even easier to fill out the Census. You can:

  • Complete it online.
  • Call 1-844-330-2020
  • Fill out the questionnaire mailed to many households this past spring.

You can still fill out Census if you lost the Census code. It is quick, fast, and will help determine our futures for the next 10 years. 

Staten Island – Let’s Do This

Staten Island Project Hospitality Census
Project Hospitality is part of the SI Counts Coalition and a staffer is tabling at a recent outside sporting event to make sure attendees finish their Census. Photo: Veronica Gambon

Many Staten Island organizations have been working hard since February to help “get out the count” to make sure all Staten Islanders respond to the Census. Due to COVID-19, many of these organizations had to adjust their original outreach plans to ensure the safety of staff and the public.

Motivate Your Family and Friends

Staten Island continues to have the highest Census self-response rate compared to the other four boroughs. Our borough has even beaten our own Census self-response rates from 2010 — but we can still do better.

Let’s make sure every single person in Staten Island doesn’t “miss the boat.” Encourage others to complete their Census questionnaire before the October 31st deadline. We can continue to have the highest response rate in the City and get the resources we deserve for the next decade. Come on Staten Island, let’s leave our mark and show everyone we are no longer the “forgotten borough.” 

United States Census 2020. “What is the 2020 Census?” https://2020census.gov/en/what-is-2020-census.html. 23 Sept. 2020

Moulton, Sean and Long Steven. “The Important of the 2020 Census, Explained in Dollars and Cents.” https://www.pogo.org/analysis/2020/03/the-importance-of-the-2020-census-explained-in-dollars-and-cents/. 26 March 2020. 

Reamer, Andrew. “Counting for Dollars 2020: The Role of the Decennial Census in the Geographic Distribution of Federal Funds.” https://gwipp.gwu.edu/sites/g/files/zaxdzs2181/f/downloads/IPP-1819-3%20CountingforDollars_NY.pdf

Author

Nidhi Khanna

Nidhi Khanna is a native Staten Islander and currently serves as the Census Manager for United Activities Unlimited and is part of the Staten Island Counts Coalition that is working to make sure all Staten Islanders complete the Census this year. She also works for an environmental non-profit organization. Khanna previously was a scientific researcher and educator. She is an alumna of Staten Island Academy, received her B.S. in biology and philosophy from Wagner College, and M.S. in environmental science from the City University of New York.

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