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Last chance to be counted in census

Hamilton, Essex County responses remain low

A census packet hangs on the doorknob of a hunting camp in the Franklin County town of Santa Clara in August, indicating that a census worker has stopped by to see if anyone lives there. It’s unclear how much of a factor hunting camps, second homes, vacation rental units and other non-primary dwellings have on the Adirondack area’s low census response rate. (Enterprise photo — Peter Crowley)

The 2020 Census count may end with Hamilton County having the worst response rate in the state by far, and with Essex County having one of the worst.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday issued an order allowing President Donald Trump’s administration to stop the 2020 census count early. The ruling allows the administration to halt the count this Friday, ahead of the Oct. 31 deadline selected by the U.S. Census Bureau after the coronavirus pandemic delayed census operations. Advocacy groups continue to fight the early deadline in federal appeals court.

The Supreme Court justices didn’t provide their reason for the order, which is typical for court decisions on emergency applications, according to the New York Times.

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor did register her dissent to the Trump administration’s request on Tuesday, writing, “The harms caused by rushing this year’s census count are irreparable. And respondents will suffer their lasting impact for at least the next 10 years.”

The Trump administration attempted to end the count by Sept. 30, a month ahead of the deadline, but Judge Lucy H. Koh of the U.S. District Court in Northern California temporarily stopped the bureau from ending its enumeration process a month early. The Trump administration then asked the Supreme Court to intervene, arguing that the bureau could meet its statutory Dec. 31 deadline to deliver results to the president only if it shuts down field work early, according to the Times.

The Census Bureau is required by the U.S. Constitution to count every person living in the United States.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo urged New Yorkers to respond to the census in a statement Wednesday.

“The Census only happens once every 10 years and it’s one of the most important ways New Yorkers can help ensure the state gets the representation and funding we need in Washington,” Cuomo said. “This process profoundly affects our state’s future, and I strongly urge every New Yorker to participate and do it now.”

By the numbers

As of Monday, 41.8% of Essex County households had responded to the census. That’s down from the county’s 51.5% response rate for the 2010 census and puts Essex County just behind Hamilton and Sullivan counties for the worst response rate in the state.

Hamilton County has a 19.1% response rate — far below its 40% response rate in 2010. Sullivan County has a response rate of 36.5%.

Hamilton and Essex are the only counties completely within the Adirondack Park boundary. They also have large numbers of second homes and other non-primary dwellings such as vacation rental units and hunting camps; it is not clear how much of a factor these are in the census response rate. Sullivan County is in the Catskills, another rural area where census takers have historically faced some challenges in counting households.

New York’s 21st Congressional District altogether had the worst census response rate in the state as of Monday, with 54% of households reporting, down from 63.3% in 2010.

Tupper Lake, in Franklin County, and St. Armand, in Essex County, have the best response rates in the Tri-Lakes area with 55.3% and 51.3%, respectively. The town of Keene is behind in its census response with 27.1% of households responding, down from its 35.2% response rate in 2010. Wilmington is also behind, with a 39.5% response rate as of Monday compared to 54.1% in 2010. North Elba, with 43.7%, and Harrietstown, with 50.7%, both have relatively high response rates compared to other towns in this area, but are still falling far behind compared to the 2010 census.

Why it matters

The 2020 census results will be a key part of determining congressional representation, since U.S. House of Representatives seats are allotted based on population. There are concerns that New York could lose multiple congressional seats as the state’s population continues to decline. It lost two seats in the House after the 2010 census.

Census data is also used as part of the equation when the federal government disburses $1.5 trillion in funding and aid, including money for road repairs and other infrastructure improvements. The census can impact the number of jobs in an area — census data is a factor in some corporations’ decisions on where to establish new business locations — and can impact local students’ ability to go to college. Census data is a factor in federal Pell and Title 1 education grants. Census data is also used to determine school aid, funding for Head Start federal child care services, national school lunch programs and health care systems.

How to respond

The deadline to respond is now this Friday at 6 a.m. Responses by mail have to be postmarked by Thursday.

For those with a traditional mailing address, census forms and instructions on how to respond by mail should have already arrived. Those with post office boxes should have also already received notification from a census taker.

Residents can respond to the census by phone by calling 844-330-2020 between the hours of 7 a.m. and 2 a.m.

Regardless of whether a person has received notification from the Census Bureau, self-reporting online is also an option. Visit “http://2020census.gov”>2020census.gov, and click “respond.” Enter your address, and then start the questionnaire, which takes just a few minutes.

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