April 12, 2019
Census 2020: Why Community Outreach Is Key
As you know, CCC and our partner organizations in New York Counts 2020 pushed for the state budget to include $40 million in funding for 2020 Census outreach statewide. Unfortunately, the state included only $20 million for outreach in its 2019-2020 Adopted Budget.
That’s why we were so grateful to see the City Council step up when it released its 2020 Budget Response on April 9. It included a recommended investment of $40 million toward community outreach for the 2020 Census. We applaud Speaker Corey Johnson and the rest of City Council for recognizing the important role CBOs play in doing this important work.
Why is outreach so important?
New York State has a history of being undercounted. According to the Fiscal Policy Institute, there are 4.8 million hard-to-count New Yorkers. Hard-to-count populations may face barriers to participation including geographic or linguistic isolation, lack of internet access, discomfort with sharing personal information, or distrust of the government.
There are many barriers that could prevent people from being counted. For example, children under 5 are sometimes not listed by parents or guardians on Census forms. Sometimes there are language barriers or a general desire to not share private information — particularly with the government.
The best way to engage hard-to-count populations is through trusted community-based organizations such as places of worship, community centers, or other grassroots institutions. Ensuring all New Yorkers are counted could be made more difficult in the 2020 Census. We are awaiting a final decision on whether the Census form will include a citizenship question — a move by the Trump Administration that could deter immigrants from filling out the form. Also, the 2020 Census will be the first to be completed online instead of on paper forms. Some from hard-to-count populations do not have access to reliable internet.
This is why outreach from trusted, local community-based organizations is critical in ensuring all New Yorkers are counted.
How does community-based outreach work?
Outreach at the community level can be broken into three tiers: Basic, Moderate, and Intense. Basic outreach would include holding town halls and handingout flyers. Moderate outreach includes neighborhood canvassing or staff training. Lastly, intense outreach would include access to a computer, one-on-one training on how to fill out the form and translating.
$40 million is a worthwhile investment when you consider what is at stake. New Yorkers must be counted — our congressional representation and the billions in federal resources hinge on our ability to reach all New Yorkers.