Nonprofit Newswire | Census Accuracy Effects Funding

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March 7, 2010; Times Union | It is that time of the decade, the decennial Census. If households don’t get counted accurately, federal funds tied to population-based distribution formulas won’t go to the communities where they are most needed. This op-ed by a professor and student from Union College point out how much lower the Census mail-in rates were in typically minority and low income communities compared to wealthier, whiter areas (52% for Brooklyn, New York compared to 72% for Westchester County, 49% for Albany’s Arbor Hill neighborhood compared to 87% for suburban Loudonville, etc.). At risk are funds such as the Community Development Block Grant, Head Start, and Medicaid. What the op-ed missed is the important role that community-based organizations can and should be playing in organizing and mobilizing to get residents to complete and mail in their brief Census forms. There are lots of fears in poorer communities, about government intrusion, lack of confidentiality, and immigrant status, that lead to lower Census participation rates. Nonprofits with on-the-ground programs and staff in these communities can do a great deal to help residents participate in the Census. It’s in the nonprofits’ self-interest to the benefit of their communities and the nation overall. We need a full and accurate Census count in 2010.—Rick Cohen