library computers

As part of the city’s efforts to quell any fears left over from the Trump Administration’s failed attempt to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census, Mayor de Blasio announced a $1.4-million investment in the public libraries to reach out to undercounted communities and immigrants to educate them about participating in the count.

The U.S. Commerce Department announced in March 2018 that it would restore the citizenship question, which had not been used since the 1950 Census. But two months ago, the U.S. Supreme Court decided against overturning three lower-court rulings that blocked the question from being included.


Determines Aid, House Seats

The Census determines how $7 billion in Federal funding is allocated in the state, including for programs such as Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program and food stamps. It also governs how many seats a state has in the U.S. House of Representatives, and experts believed that the change might have cost New York two seats.

The U.S. Census Bureau estimated that restoring the question would have dissuaded about 9 million people from participating in the count. Spanish-speaking groups that participated in a Census Bureau survey were concerned that information from the count would be shared with other government agencies to help them find undocumented immigrants, according to a report released in January.

Some critics saw the move to restore the citizenship question as an attack on states that traditionally vote for Democrats, which also have high percentages of undocumented immigrants among their populations. More than two dozen states and cities, including the New York Attorney General’s Office, filed lawsuits to have the question removed.

“New York City has been on the front lines of the resistance against the Trump Administration and ensuring every New Yorker gets counted is central to our fight,” said Mayor de Blasio. “We cannot let the Federal Government silence our diversity of voices. Our partnership with the public library system will help all New Yorkers stand up and be counted.”

Part of $40M Effort

The additional library funding was part of the city’s broader $40 million investment to spread awareness about the Census count. In addition to combating the distrust and misinformation that resulted from the possibility of the citizenship question being restored, the push was important because New York’s population was already undercounted in the last Census: 62 percent of the state’s residents participated in 2010, compared to 76 percent of people nationally.

“A complete count is a matter of equity and inclusion, yet many people feel uncertain and marginalized, especially in our immigrant communities. Serving the most diverse place in the country, with branches in many of the hardest-to-count census tracts, Queens Public Library is ready to make sure everyone is represented no matter who they are or where they come from,” said the public library system’s President, Dennis Walcott.

How Money Will Be Used

The funding will cover training for New York, Brooklyn and Queens Public Library staff in order to help them educate library patrons about the Census count, the purchase of additional technology such as tablets and laptops and will allow extended library hours for census-related information sessions.

“In our city where nearly 30 percent of the population lacks Internet access, they will play an outsized role in bridging the digital divide to ensure that families who don’t have Internet access at home, often in hard-to-count communities, can be counted in the 2020 Census,” said City Council Speaker Corey Johnson.

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