State officials hosted a session Friday at Buffalo State College, where they provided information to individuals and agencies who will get involved with a grassroots effort to maximize the count when the U.S. Census rolls out next month.
The first mailings are expected to arrive at homes in March, as the nation conducts its latest Census, held once every ten years.
New York State has committed up to $70 million to support agencies which will assist in collecting counts. Officials leading Friday's session at Buffalo State provided details including what activities are eligible for compensation.
Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul delivered opening remarks and said because New York was undercounted in 2010, with less than 65 percent of the population participating, the state lost millions of dollars in federal aid.
"That affects our ability to receive federal funding for critical programs, to help veterans, and infants and seniors, nutrition programs and people with disabilities," Hochul said.
Also at stake is representation in Washington. Following the 2010 Census, New York lost two congressional seats.
Hochul points out that an individual residing in New York does not have to be a U.S. citizen to be counted. She also urges non-citizens not to be afraid of participating.
"There's no consequences. The law does not allow data to be used for any purpose other than a count," she said. "We have to eliminate the fear and intimidation that's out there and let people know that when you are counted, first of all you are doing right by your state. But it also allows you to have more representation in our nation's capital."
Libraries will be among the centers where people may be counted online. Use of the internet is just one of several options available for counting. Assemblyman Sean Ryan says there is still a need to go door-to-door in many communities where online access is limited, including some urban neighborhoods and rural areas.
"We know they don't have good, reliable internet service in parts of (Buffalo's) West Side," Ryan said. "The internet's not cheap. It goes on and off. We're going to have to use all the means of the Census, between internet, and going to people's doors, to make sure there are people counted."