East Hampton, Southampton, Southold, Shelter Island, and Riverhead are all on track to suffer a crippling undercount in the current U.S. decennial Census, the field operations of which have been suspended since March 17 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
An undercount on the East End would impact the area for the next 10 years. That impact will be felt at the same time that funds for recovering from COVID-19 are being divvied up at the state and federal levels.
A Decennial Census, required by the Constitution, is done in two steps. The first, in which the Census Bureau records every residential space within the United States, was completed last year. In March of this year, the second step began, the actual headcount.
Despite the fact that COVID-19 severely impacted our nation, the Census Bureau successfully contacted, as it has over the last several decades, 95 percent of all the residences in the country via the U.S. postal system.
However, that method is not available for more than half of the East End’s population. As in five percent of country, there are large neighborhoods and hamlets in which over half the residences do not receive direct mail. Because the Census Bureau cannot match physical addresses to post office boxes, they contact these residences by sending a census worker.
That hasn’t happened this year due to COVID-19.
How badly is the East End behind? Nationally, the bureau has received responses from 60 percent of all residences contacted. The East End? East Hampton, 25 percent, Southampton 31.5, Southold 33.5, Shelter Island just 9.2, and Riverhead, where most residences receive mail, 50.7.
Most people only will fill out a census form if they are given a gentle nudge. But in places like Hither Hills, Amagansett, Bridgehampton, and Shelter Island, there has been no nudge, no contact at all from the Census Bureau.
Even if field operations begin within the next week, it is too late for business as usual.
We know town supervisors and governments are overwhelmed right now by the COVID-19 crisis. But, somehow, a postcard needs to go out to each PO Box on the East End, asking the recipient to go to www.my2020census.gov, or call 844-330-2020 for English, or 844-468-2020 for Spanish.
Such a mailing may even be eligible for FEMA funding, since the crisis was caused by COVID-19.
All media outlets need to get the message out, in print, online, and on the air: complete a census for your residence. It is quick and easy.