OSWEGO — Local officials are urging residents to participate in the once-in-a-decade U.S. Census and be a part of the count as an end of the month deadline approaches.
With an end date for the census count currently in limbo and tied up in court, a federal judge last week ordered the U.S. Census Bureau to continue counting for the 2020 census through the month of October. The Oct. 31 deadline provides nearly an additional month for residents to participate in the census, and local officials are making a final push to raise awareness of the count and its potential impacts on federal funding.
According to the Census Bureau, only 63.8 percent of New Yorkers have self-responded to the count. In Oswego County, that response rate is 62.9 percent, which is slightly lower than the 63.5 percent rate in 2010.
Response rates in Oswego County towns and cities range from a high of 74 percent in the towns of Volney and Minetto to a low of 22 percent in the town of Redfield.
Oswego County Director of Development, Tourism and Planning Dave Turner noted roughly half of the towns and cities in the county have a lower response rate so far in 2020 than in the previous census a decade ago.
“Which is not good, because our response rate was 63.5 percent of what our believed population is,” Turner said. “We lose money for every person we don't count.”
The once-in-a-decade U.S. Census can determine everything from federal funding amounts to representation in the U.S. House of Representatives, and the data collected informs a wide variety of both public and private sector actions and development.
Turner said an under count of roughly 35-40 percent of the population could cause Oswego County to miss out on as much as $400 million in federal funding over the next decade. He said the funding calculates to about $21,000 per person over the next decade.
The cities of Oswego and Fulton have a roughly 63 percent and 65 percent response rate, respectively. Both are about 6 percent below the 2010 response rate so far.
“It’s vital to our community to get an accurate count through the census to ensure we receive adequate funding for multiple uses,” said Oswego Mayor Billy Barlow. “The census is quick and easy to complete and yields an enormous return, so I encourage people to take a few minutes to complete the forms and help make sure we get the resources and representation we should be entitled to.”
Fulton Mayor Deana Michaels earlier this year said an accurate count is critical and called the 2020 Census “an opportunity to shape the future” of the community.
“We encourage everyone to participate and make your information count,” Michaels said over the summer after naming her former mayoral opponent Dan Farfaglia the city’s census chairperson.
County officials are planning a final push to ensure as many people as possible are counted, with a few weeks left for census workers to turn in a final count. Turner pointed to a series of actions taken by the county, including advertising and working with third-party nonprofits to raise awareness about the count.
“It’s really important that we fill the census out,” Turner said. “It’s really easy to do, about three to five minutes on the phone, and folks who are more tech savvy can go to census.gov and fill it out really quickly as well.”
Rural areas tend to have the lowest response rate, and those claims are played out in the Oswego County figures reported by the Census Bureau. The towns of Orwell (34 percent), Sandy Creek (41 percent), Boylston (45 percent), Williamstown (46 percent), Amboy (52 percent) and Albion (55 percent) are the lowest in Oswego County.
Half of Oswego County municipalities have seen higher response rates so far in 2020 than the previous census count, with the town of Minetto seeing the highest increase, from 65 percent to 74 percent.
The town of Boylston has seen the largest decrease in response rate, from 55 percent in 2010 to 45 percent so far in 2020.