With response rates to the U.S. Census continuing to lag, community leaders on Friday again pushed for anyone who hasn’t yet filled out a household census form to do so.
Information provided Friday showed that Schenectady County’s overall response rate to date is 66.4 percent — or 3.3 percentage points lower than during the 2010 census.
Breaking the numbers down, the county’s poorest communities have the lowest response rate. The response rate from residents of Hamilton Hill is as low as 34.7 percent, while the response rate in the county’s most-affluent community, Niskayuna, is 79.8 percent. The Hamilton Hill response rate is 6.7 percentage points below the 2010 figure, while Niskayuna’s is off 2.4 percentage points.
The story is much different in the city. Schenectady’s overall response rate is 52.7 percent, down from 60.6 percent last time. The downtown/Stockade, Eastern Avenue, Mont Pleasant, Hamilton Hill and Northside neighborhoods all have response rates below 50 percent this year. Community organizations suspect the COVID pandemic and concerns about how information will be used have kept some people from responding.
There could be a negative impact for not responding: Medicaid, Medicare, transportation capital investment, social services programs, and school funding are among the federal programs that allocate funding based on the census.
A federal court in California on Thursday ordered the Trump administration to keep the count open through Oct. 31, at least temporarily suspending the administration’s plan to end the counting of the entire U.S. population on Sept. 30 — four weeks ahead of the original schedule. The administration is expected to appeal, contending the count needs to wrap up early so a final count can be delivered to Congress by Dec. 31.
The court ruling was the latest development in a federal lawsuit over the administration’s decision to shorten the timeline for the national head count. The judge in northern California found that the administration’s truncated census schedule is likely to produce inaccurate numbers about historically undercounted groups, including people of color and immigrants.
“We don’t think we’re out of the woods. We don’t know if it will be extended another full month,” said Bob Carreau, executive director of the Schenectady Foundation. “Those numbers are critical because we suspect those areas are also the census tracts with the highest need, and if our folks aren’t counted, we won’t look like we need the kind of federal aid we actually do.”
Carreau said the census form doesn’t require anyone to provide their personal information, and the information collected is confidential. “We are just going to continue to put this out there, and let people understand you’re not imperiling your private information, they don’t require any personal information,” he said.
People can fill the form out online at my2020census.org., or can call toll-free to 1-844-330-2020. “It just takes a couple of minutes,” Carreau said.