U.S. Census & struggling New Yorkers: light at the end of the tunnel?

Stephon Johnson | 10/3/2019, 4:08 p.m.
The latest American Community Survey report revealed that income inequality in America has increased and New York’s no different.

But some community leaders believe that the key to getting help comes from actually filling out the U.S. Census. Nora Moran, director of policy & advocacy at United Neighborhood Houses, a policy and social change organization, touted the group’s recent grant from the New York City Council to help mobilize communities for the census.

“Our job is to meet with them, listen and understand what issues affect them on a community level,” said Moran. “Then we take those issues and create a policy platform. We got involved in speaking about the census because our members [saw it] as a challenge on their horizon.”

But due to President Donald Trump’s administration’s attempt to include a question about citizenship in the census (and not succeeding), there’s fear among the undocumented to let the government know of their presence. Moran understood this and said UNH will work on combating those fears.

“The citizenship question created the fear,” said Moran. “Because of that, UNH really decided that it was important to get involved in this. The damage has already been done in a lot of ways. We have to let them know how important it is to make themselves known and the political power they have participating in the census.”

UNH is also involved with New York Counts 2020, a statewide census coalition, looking to preserve funding and seats on Capitol Hill.

“We work with non-government groups embedded in neighborhoods that locals know and trust and work with on a regular basis,” said Moran. “They should be positioned to do outreach. We also know there’s a lot at stake. One or two congressional seats could be lost if there’s a severe undercount and a loss in federal funding to things like SNAP and Medicaid.”

But regardless of the problems behind the numbers, City Hall prefers to celebrate the positive and take credit for the changes.

“The bold actions that New York City is taking—on housing, wages, early childhood, health care and more—are producing meaningful and important progress in reducing poverty,” said Matthew Klein, executive director of the Mayor’s Office for Economic Opportunity, in a statement. “The positive trends reflected in this most recent federal Official Poverty rate for New York City are consistent with the findings of our office’s own more precise poverty measure released each spring. We are clearly moving in the right direction, and committed to pushing hard for even more.”