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An undercount of New Yorkers in the 1990 federal census could cost the state congressional seats and more than $1.2 billion in the next decade, Assembly Speaker Mel Miller, D-Brooklyn, said Monday.

As many as 618,000 New York residents could go uncounted this year, said Miller, who cited figures based on the 1980 census. More than 80 federal programs, which spend $39 billion, use population data to distribute money to states, he said.

Miller's warning came as federal, state and local leaders met in Albany to map plans to ensure a full count of the state's population by the U.S. Census Bureau on April 1.

Miller stressed the importance of recruiting competent census takers, especially in the minority and ethnic communities. While the 1980 national undercount was 1.6 percent, it was 7.2 percent for blacks and 5.9 percent for Hispanics, he said.

Democratic Assemblyman David Gantt said, "The numbers make it clear the black population of my home city of Rochester probably had a 2.5 percent undercount last time."

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