CNY Activists Call For More Census Accessibility CNY Activists Call For More Census Accessibility

Local community-based organizations aim to maximize 2020 Census participation.

Luca Serio: “A year from today we will be filling out our Census forms. N-C-C News’ Peyton Smith explains why local activists want next year’s Census to be as accurate as possible.”

Peyton Smith: “It determines federal funding, congressional representation and community planning. C-N-Y Community Foundation’s Frank Ridzi says the this leaves a lot at stake.”

Frank Ridzi: “It’s our best opportunity to get a sense of who’s living where and what their needs are.”

Peyton Smith: “Activists are concerned an online Census could limit participation. Director of an immigrant and refugee support group — Haji Adan — says his groups offers resources for those without internet.”

Haji Adan: “So we can help them in our offices, so we have computer lab, so they can come and use their computers here.”

Peyton Smith: “RISE also has case managers to help refugees fill out the Census. Peyton Smith, N-C-C News.”

Syracuse, N.Y. (NCC News) — A year from now, Rahzie Seals, an organizer with the Workers’ Center of Central New York and Central New York Counts 2020, plans to go to her cousin’s house on Syracuse’s West Side, with her laptop in hand. Because the 2020 Census will be the first to be completed mostly online, Seals knows she will have to step up to make sure her family without internet gets counted.

“I’m going to go there with my laptop like, ‘Hey, guys, you know, this is serious,’” she said. “Here’s my laptop, here’s my hotspot, let’s go fill out the census.’”

Seals and a dozen others called attention at a press conference Monday to other families who may not be able to easily fill out the census.

New York Counts 2020, a statewide coalition of community-based organizations (CBOs), called for New York State to invest $40 million in CBOs for census training, education, and assistance, twice amount included in the latest state budget. The coalition warned that changes to the next census, such as going online, a citizenship question and insufficient funding, present new challenges for counting New Yorkers in underrepresented neighborhoods.

New York Counts Member Scott Kushner holds a sign at Monday's press conference.
New York Counts 2020 estimates 18 percent (about 85,000 people) of Onondaga County’s population lives in hard-to-count neighborhoods. These areas are shaded in light orange and dark red on the Syracuse map in the center of the poster.
© 2019 Peyton Smith

“These changes will yield significant under reporting for immigrants and communities of color,” said Fabiola Ortiz-Valdez, the coalition’s manager of member engagement. “It’s just going to make it so people can’t respond or don’t feel safe answering the census.”

The key to preventing this is for New York Counts 2020 to work closely with local CBOs, she said.

“CBOs ensure that New York State has a fair and accurate count,” Ortiz-Valdez said. “We know that CBOs are the solution for these challenges and crucial to ensure a fair and accurate count because they are already working with these hard-to-reach, hard-to-count communities.”

She added, “These communities are mainly low-wage workers, undocumented communities, new Americans, refugees, and mixed status as families.”

The Central New York Community Foundation, a local charity that makes grants to other charities and civic efforts, is one of the CBOs working with New York Counts 2020. The Community Foundation made a $10,000 grant to support the work of the coalition and local count coordinators.

“The census is our best opportunity to get a sense of who’s living here and what their needs are,” said Frank Ridzi, the foundation’s vice president of community investment.

Ridzi explained the census is essential because it determines federal funding, congressional representation, and community resourcing.

He added,  “If that count is inaccurate for any of a number of reasons, it makes it very hard to address our community needs.”

Reported by
Peyton Smith

Peyton Smith

Peyton studies broadcast and digital journalism and sport analytics at Syracuse University. He is active in several on-campus media outlets. At CitrusTV, Peyton is the day reporter for Tuesday News Live at 6:00 and has served as the executive producer of Orange Press Pass and CitrusTV NOW. He also works with WAER Radio and is on the ACC Network Production crew, where he helps broadcast live sports events through linear and digital telecasts. Peyton looks forward to advancing his career in broadcasting, production, and journalism.

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