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Ignoring 2000 census cost area $300 million

Western New York has lost out on $300 million in federal funding in the past decade because of people who didn't fill out their census form a decade ago, Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand said Thursday as she urged residents to take part in this year's count.

"Participation in Census 2010 by all New Yorkers is critical to ensuring our fair share of federal resources," Gillibrand, D-N.Y., said. "Especially during difficult economic times, we need to secure federal funding to protect local education, health care and public safety services, and hold the line on property taxes."

Citing figures from the New York secretary of state's office, Gillibrand said about 15,000 residents of Erie, Niagara, Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua and Wyoming counties failed to fill out their census forms last time.

As a result, Gillibrand said the region has been losing about $30 million a year in federal aid. That money would have gone to a range of federal programs funding schools, health facilities, public housing and social services.

The Western New York figures are an estimate based on statewide numbers, which indicate that about 200,000 residents were not counted in the 2000 census.

The secretary of state's office estimates that the state lost out on approximately $3.6 billion in federal funding over a decade because of that undercount.

The same thing could happen again if people don't fill out the census forms that arrived in the mail this week, Gillibrand warned.

"The census is a win-win for everyone -- and it's safe, easy and fast to fill out," she said. "It is critical that we capture a true picture of New York's families and neighborhoods to ensure their access to needed resources."

In addition to guiding much federal funding, the census is used to apportion the 435 members of the House of Representatives among the states.

New York, which currently has 29 House members, is expected to lose one House seat in the reapportionment that will follow the 2010 census.

e-mail: jzremski@buffnews.com

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