Hoping to thwart an expected undercount of the city, Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan kicked off a campaign Thursday to highlight the importance of the upcoming 2020 census.
Communities across the Northeast, which has been losing population to the South and West, are stressing the importance of making sure everyone is counted. #BeCounted is meant to ensure the region remains in line for federal funding for infrastructure development, community resources, and educational programs for the next decade.
108th District Democratic state Assemblyman John McDonald says the state has taken steps to make sure all residents participate. "We're also working against some things that we always tell people. 'Don't talk to strangers. Make sure you guard your personal information. Be careful when you're on the internet.' And of course now we have a time now in place where sometimes people are just afraid to talk to anybody. And that's why resources have been pushed into these communities, because we want trusted sources talking to trusted sources. We want people in their own community talking to people they trust to let them know it's fine, it's OK."
Sheehan launched the #BeCounted campaign inside the Philip J. Schuyler Achievement Academy, a school she says is located in a census tract where there has been historically an undercounted population. "If we wanna fight for the resources that our families need and that our cities need, we have to be able to ensure that we're counting everybody, and we are building that sense of real excitement around counting everyone in Albany."
Sheehan says every year $600 billion dollars is distributed annually across the country based on census statistics and data. City School District of Albany Superintendent Kaweeda Adams says families need to understand what the census is about. "So that, you know, we reduce that fear of being counted and so that they can trust that it is for the actual intent that it is designed, so that we can look at the various resources for our city so that we can strengthen our community."
Adams adds using students as a conduit to get the #BeCounted message to parents is key. "We have fliers that will be going home. We've put, you know, different advertisements on our, you know, newsletters and things like that. We have posted that information on our website for our families. So we're just trying to heighten that awareness so that families know when that timeframe is for them to be counted and to fill out the census."
Sheehan says outreach isn’t limited to kids and parents: March 18th she'll be hosting a "Census Bingo" event at the Albany JCC. "Particularly in our senior population, there's a lot of understandable distrust of putting information online, and so, we're gonna be working with seniors, making it fun. Another thing that we're doing is we're having talks in barbershops across the city of Albany. So we've worked with a number of barbers in the city. We've trained them, given them talking points, so that when they're giving a shave or cutting hair they can ask the question 'have you filled out the census? Do you know why it's important?"
Sheehan adds children under 5 are the most undercounted in the local population. She encourages residents to stop by city hall to pick up #BeCounted lawn signs. "Every single person that we don't count will cost us, over the 10 years of the census, $20 to $25,000 over that 10 years, so we need to make sure that we're counting everyone."