NEW ORLEANS – Today, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR), local advocates and Gulf Coast residents held a press conference to release a new report, “Counting in the Wake of a Catastrophe: Challenges and Recommendations for the 2010 Census in the Gulf Coast Region.”
The report assesses the current demographic conditions in the Gulf Coast region and the immense challenges they pose to the upcoming census. It also makes several practical recommendations for policymakers and the Census Bureau designed to ensure the most accurate count possible.
Over the next decade, trillions of dollars in government funding, private spending and investment decisions will be made based on the census data collected next spring. The census also determines how many representatives each state will send to Congress.
The stakes are especially high for the Gulf Coast region, which is still recovering four years after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
“Hurricane Katrina was a natural disaster and a man-made catastrophe, but a 2010 census that misses people in the hardest-hit Gulf Coast areas would be one more devastating blow depriving residents and their communities of the assistance they need to fully recover,” said Wade Henderson, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR). “This is especially true for hard-to-count populations: people of color, low-income residents and those with limited English skills.”
“Getting an accurate census count will require an enormous effort on the part of everyone from the president, the Congress and the Census Bureau to community-based organizations like ours that have developed a special trust with people in hard-to-count groups,” said Trap Bonner, executive director of Moving Forward Gulf Coast. “This report should help everyone understand what’s at stake and what needs to be done to overcome the obstacles.”
“Gaining the trust and participation of our growing immigrant communities will be especially challenging,” said Alisha Johnson, development director of the Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance. “That’s why we need trusted voices to explain that individual census information is protected by the strongest privacy laws we have – and that no government agency, law enforcement official, landlord, or employer can get access to that information.”
- Describes the high stakes for the Gulf Coast in the census and how the count will affect the recovery and the region over the next 10 years.
- Assesses the current situation in the region and the impact of unique demographic trends that emphasize the exceptional challenges to achieving an accurate count, particularly among vulnerable populations.
- Makes recommendations to policy makers and the Census Bureau to ensure the most accurate count possible.
Recommendations from the report include:
- Congress should hold a field hearing in the Gulf Coast region as soon as possible to examine the barriers to achieving an accurate and fair census in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and to evaluate the steps being taken to overcome those obstacles.
- Congress should authorize a federally funded special census in 2012 or 2013 in designated Gulf Coast communities still recovering from Hurricane Katrina. This second census will keep New Orleans and other communities from being penalized economically for another full decade.
- The Census Bureau should immediately appoint a senior level Gulf Coast Census Coordinator to oversee final preparations and census operations in Gulf Coast communities still recovering from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR) is the nation’s oldest, largest, and most diverse civil and human rights coalition. For more information on LCCR and its more than 200 member organizations, visit www.civilrights.org.