BOROUGHWIDE— Determined not to be undercounted in the U.S. Census in 2020, New York City is busy gearing up for the big tally.
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Dec. 9 that the city is awarding $19 million from the New York City Complete Count Fund to 150 grassroots groups that will be working on the ground to encourage residents to fill out their Census forms.
The Complete Count Fund, a joint effort by the de Blasio administration and the City Council, is part of the city’s $40 million investment in census-related mobilization.
The fund is designed to train organizations to build awareness about the Census, convey its importance and fight the spread of misinformation. The organizations will be required to engage in Census mobilization from January to June of 2020.
“Neighbors will empower neighbors to stand up and be counted,” de Blasio said in a statement.
U.S. Census Day is April 1, 2020.
“Not only will these funds go directly to organizations who know exactly how to reach our most vulnerable neighbors in every community, it represents the largest investment of any city nationwide for the 2020 Census,” said Sunset Park Councilmember Carlos Menchaca, co-chair of the Council’s Census 2020 Task Force.
Brooklyn had the lowest response rate in the 2010 Census, according to the mayor’s office, and as such, groups in the borough will receive a plurality of funding, 33 percent.
The Brooklyn organizations receiving funding include:
•Boro Park Jewish Community Council, which will reach out to the rabbinic leadership of ultra-orthodox sects and hold pop-up centers outside of synagogues and schools.
•Mixteca Inc., which will train staff members to conduct Census outreach and education to immigrant Latinx families in Sunset Park.
•Digital Girl, Inc., which will focus on intergenerational work, engaging parents and grandparents of program participants about the Census. Digital Girl is a Brooklyn-based organization that encourages underserved youth to pursue studies and careers in STEM.
•BRIC Arts Media, a downtown Brooklyn-based cultural institution, which will leverage its community spaces and media tools to mobilize New Yorkers to respond to the Census via a public education campaign.
•Carroll Gardens Association, which will educate low-income Red Hook residents on the Census.
The Census is important because it determines how $650 billion in federal funds for public education, public housing and roads and bridges will be distributed throughout the country. It also determines the number of seats each state is allocated in the House of Representatives.
“One survey can have a detrimental ripple effect on our access to education, health care, housing and transportation. Our scholars and seniors cannot afford to wait another 10 years to receive their fair share of federal funding to close the widening gap in resources for our community,” said Councilmember Farah Louis, a Democrat representing Flatbush.
In 2010, the city’s overall response rate was 61.9 percent, compared to the national average of 76 percent.
But Brooklyn was seriously undercounted in that Census, according to city officials, who filed a formal challenge with the U.S. Census Bureau to have the numbers adjusted.
According to the Census count, Brooklyn grew from 2,465,326 residents in 2000 to 2,504,700 in 2010, a mere 1.6 percent population increase.
In the challenge filed by then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the city contended that a high number of vacancies cited in the Census for Southwest Brooklyn was inaccurate and led to an error that resulted in an under-reporting of New York’s population.
“It’s clear that the numbers referenced in the Census for both Bay Ridge and Bensonhurst are wrong,” said Vincent Gentile, the councilmember representing the two neighborhoods at the time. “The fact is, we have three new schools being built. If there are new schools being built, what is that telling you about the neighborhood? The population is going up.”
The city’s appeal was denied.
Officials admitted to having concerns this time around.
“Brooklyn is considered one of the hardest-to-count counties in New York State, and it’s vital that we get the resources we deserve so we #MakeBrooklynCount,” Borough President Eric Adams said.
Brooklyn’s Community Board 11 is home to more than 204,000 residents, making the Bensonhurst-Bath Beach area one of the most densely populated parts of the borough, according to officials.
But Board 11 officials said they’re concerned that a large number of those residents won’t be counted in the upcoming Census and that the community will lose out on vital government services as a result.
Additional reporting by Helen Klein