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Western New Yorkers should complete their census forms to protect the state

Right now, with businesses shut down and governments directing people to stay at home, this is the perfect time to fill out the 2020 census, the decennial count of the United States population. It’s online, it’s fast and it’s critical for New York.

The novel coronavirus pandemic has upended just about everything, but the census remains a constitutional responsibility. Covid-19 has pushed back the timeline, forcing the bureau to suspend field operations for two additional weeks, until April 15.

Completing the census form is important, especially to those of us in New York. It affects the state’s federal funding, its congressional representation and its share of the Electoral College vote.

Critical in this effort to enumerate individuals and communities that are hard to count. They include people of color, immigrants, Native Americans, children under the age of 5 and families headed by single parents.

The results in the 2010 census on these groups were disappointing. Response rates fell below 60% in parts of Buffalo’s Lower West and East sides, as well as in Lackawanna, downtown Niagara Falls and on the Cattaraugus Reservation. Covid-19 presents an even greater, unexpected challenge in gathering data.

Census results will determine how $675 billion in federal and state funds are allocated for the next decade. They affect schools, hospitals, fire departments, and roads and bridges and more.

Census results also influence funding for federal programs such as Medicaid, Head Start, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Section 8 housing.

Back in December, this page implored readers to take the census. Without an accurate count, New York could lose not only federal funding, but the number of seats our state claims in the House of Representatives, and its number of Electoral votes.

With its population falling, New York stands to lose at least one of its 27 seats in the House of Representatives and maybe two. An accurate count will help limit the damage.

Local totals will also be used in constitutionally mandated redrawing of the state’s legislative lines.

Completing the census is a civic duty. Most people should have received mail with directions for completing this necessary task online. It’s fast and it’s important.

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