The 2020 Census, the population count of the entire country, which is the basis for the creation of voting districts at all levels, as well as funding for many government programs, has failed on the East End. Town supervisors are raising red flags, but, is anybody in Washington listening?
“We are going to have to come up with another way to count these people,” Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said. “If we don’t properly get counted, it is a problem for 10 years. Already, we struggle to get close to our fair share of funding.”
He and East Hampton Town Supervisor Peter Von Scoyoc said this week they have not been contacted by the U.S. Census Bureau about this growing crisis, though both agree government at all levels are operating under great duress.
“It is super important that we get every person counted,” Von Scoyoc said.
The amount of federal assistance during any long-term future recovery from the COVID-19 crisis could well be linked to the population counts in various effected areas.
For this decennial census, a new approach was taken. Instead of sending out a form, each residence was to be given what the bureau describes as an invitation to participate. There are three ways to fill out a form this year: online, by phone, or by mail.
Each residence has been assigned its own unique code, given on the invitation. If you visit the bureau’s website and enter it, you can immediately access the short form, which can be completed in just a couple of minutes.
These invitations were sent out to most households in the nation by mail in March, but in certain areas of the country, where a majority of residences have post office boxes, the bureau employs a program called Update Leave, which large sections of the East End fall into.
Under Update Leave, all contact with the residence, and, potentially, residents, is done directly.
COVID-19, and the related shutdown of the country, struck at the exact moment Update Leave was to begin. The bureau has been unable to deploy workers even once, meaning thousands of people on the East End have never been contacted.
The national response rate, as of May 9, was 58.5 percent. New York, the original American epicenter of the novel coronavirus pandemic, is at 52.9 percent. The boroughs hardest hit in the city are lagging further behind. On the East End, the numbers are disastrous. East Hampton Town sits slightly above 23 percent. Breaking the East Hampton numbers down further, in eastern Montauk, it’s 21.1 percent, downtown Montauk and Hither Hills, 10 percent; Wainscott, 7.2 percent; and Napeague and a large part of Amagansett, 4.4 percent.
Southampton is equally troubled. The response rate for the town is closing in on 30 percent, but Sagaponack is below 10 percent, and much of Bridgehampton just above 10. Shelter Island currently sits at 7.2 percent.
There is one work-around, though: any East End resident who has not been contacted by the U.S. Census Bureau can call 844-330-2020. Expect long delays, but once a census worker gets the physical address of a home, he or she should be able to provide the ID code needed to complete the form, either over the phone or online.
You can also go to www.My2020census.gov and follow the prompts. You can fill out a form after you enter your street address. The form also asks for your phone number, so if the Census Bureau needs more information regarding the physical location of your residence they will be able to call. The form online takes a couple of minutes to fill out.
T.E. McMorrow has worked on three decennial census’ and was a field operations supervisor covering a large swath of Manhattan during the 2010 Census.