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Push for Census participation is renewed in Buffalo, with extra month to get counted

Michael Mroziak, WBFO

Following a federal court order late Thursday to extend the U.S. Census another month, leaders in Buffalo were renewing calls Friday to complete questionnaires and ensure more federal funding would come to the region over the next decade.

A federal judge in California ordered an extension of the deadline through October 31, ruling that a shorter season would likely result in inaccurate numbers. The Trump Administration had set the deadline for September 30.

Friday morning outside B.U.I.L.D. Community School on Fougeron Street in Buffalo, Common Council member Mitch Nowakowski joined New York State Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes and others in a renewed pitch to the public to participate.

"The numbers that are given are used to calculate school resources, to streets and sidewalks, to senior centers, to a multitude of things that help urban communities grow," he said.

Joining elected officials outside B.U.I.L.D. Community School was its principal, Tanika Shedrick.

"We want to make sure that the community understands and know that resources are needed at school buildings like my own," she said. "We need to make sure that we're supporting Black and Brown communities. And this is one way that we can start to begin to make that happen."

As of Friday, Buffalo's response to the Census was at about 53 percent. Peoples-Stokes calls that unacceptable.

"We must go past the numbers where we were 10 years ago. And that was only 67 percent," she said. "So let's go, Buffalo. Let's go. Let's don't just talk about 'let's go' when it comes times for the Bills. Let's go for our children. Let's go for our streets. Let's go for our public works department. Let's go for the environment. Let's go Buffalo, we need these numbers to be counted."

Among the problems holding back the count are lingering concerns by many residents about how the information will be used.

"The concerns that I'm hearing is that if they give information, will it be safe? Will their names not be used for any other things that will be used against them?" he said.

The Census is not limited to United States citizens. But leaders admit New Americans or undocumented residents are worried that participating in the Census could get them in trouble with federal authorities. Peoples-Stokes says while those people are skeptical, they should not worry.

"Laws have been passed in the State of New York to protect them," she said. "In fact, at one point, you may know that the federal administration wanted to ask that question on the census, if you were a citizen or not. That question has been removed, because that's not important."

What's important, Peoples-Stokes added, is being counted so that the appropriate amount of resources may be allocated to provide the services needed.

Mayor Byron Brown praised the federal court's decision during a separate event, and announced Census drives will be hosted Saturday, September 26, from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m., at the following locations:

  • Delavan-Grider Community Center, 877 E. Delevan Avenue
  • Johnnie B. Wiley Amateur Athletic Sports Pavilion, 1100 Jefferson Avenue
  • Belle Community Center, 104 Maryland Street
  • Broadway Market, 999 Broadway

Mayor Brown appeared at the Delevan-Grider Community Center Friday to make his own Census pitch.
"If the population who utilizes this center is not accurately reflected in the census count, then it risks losing some of its critically needed funding," he said. "That can result in cutbacks to staff, services, and operating hours. The Delavan-Grider Community Center would not be alone in this predicament because if Buffalo is undercounted again, this could happen to other centers across the entire city.”

Mayor Brown also encouraged residents to respond online, or by telephone at 844-330-2020.

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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