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'Divisive Politics' Could Complicate New York's 2020 Census

ROCHESTER. NY (WXXI) - An event taking place at the Central Library in Rochester Wednesday discussed the upcoming 2020 census and steps to ensure a full count of all New Yorkers.

The US Census Bureau presented plans for the next Census, including new technologies and efforts to build partnerships with hard to count populations, as well as a brainstorming session with community members.

Elizabeth Burakowski, Deputy Director of Upstate Revitalization for New York State Homes and Community Renewal says she’s been traveling around the state working on these sessions and says one of the big takeaways is that many people are scared to answer in today’s political climate.

"Whether they’re immigrants who are worried about their immigration status or just being investigated even if they are documented. People who just don’t want the federal government to know who they are and anything about them in general."

This is the first time a question about citizenship with appear on the census form.

But Burakowski says they are trying to combat that by finding trusted members of hard to reach communities to partner with.

"Because I can tell you something, but you’re probably trust your neighbor more than you trust me. So we want to help communities develop that messaging and reach the trusted voices so they can disseminate the message to the community."

Burakowski says they want people to know how important the census count is.

"Every organization you know uses Census data and we need it to be right because we are stuck with it for 10 years."

The Census affects New York's representation in Congress and is used for federal, state and local redistricting; and it determines New York States representation in the Electoral College.

"If you use any services like, your kids go to school, you get SNAP, you get WIC, literally you drive on a road, all of this is important for funding purposes."

According to the US census Bureau, an estimated $675 billion in federal funds is distributed each year using this data.

This is also the first census you will be able to respond to online and on the phone, as well as through the mail.