Community Orgs Await NYC Dollars for 2020 Census Outreach

Members of Desis Rising Up and Moving march during a protest related to the Trump administration’s family separation policy. (Photo by Max Siegelbaum via Documented)

[Editor’s note: The story was corrected by Documented to reflect the fact that community organizations had not in fact received city funds by this time in advance of the decennial census in 2010 – rather, they had received funding from private and philanthropic sources at that time.]

Community organizations active in ethnic and immigrant communities across New York City say that they have yet to receive funds from the city that could support critical outreach in advance of the 2020 Census, despite the fact that Mayor Bill de Blasio said earlier this year that $4.3 million would be allocated by the city to the “Get Counted NYC” campaign, mainly to hire a census coordinator and oversee a public awareness campaign.

Aliya Bhatia reports in Documented:

“We are very disappointed that of the $4.3 million dollars allocated for the census by New York City, zero dollars are going to community organizations,” said John Park, executive director at the MinKwon Center for Community Action. In advance of the 2010 census, the MinKwon Center received a grant from the city and used it to hire staff to encourage Asian-Pacific Americans to complete the census. Late last month, the New York Immigration Coalition said that the state was $40 million short in funding the census, leaving the city and local community organizations with no funds received.

In advance of the 2010 census, philanthropic and private sources gave $605,000 to 37 community organizations including the MinKwon Center, Chhaya Community Development Corporation, Arab American Association, Desis Rising Up & Moving (DRUM) and Voces Latinas.

Controversy has been swirling around the 2020 Census for months, and the news in the spring that the government was planning to add a citizenship question to the survey has fanned concerns that there may be an undercount in urban areas with large immigrant populations. An accurate nationwide census is critical to ensuring that the allocation of funds from federal programs is equitable.

“We don’t have any city funding and we should,” said Fahd Ahmed, Executive Director of DRUM.  “Funding is important so we are better placed to reach out to communities more effectively and more deeply.”

Counting people in New York City’s immigrant communities is particularly tricky because many residents are skeptical about the census, Ahmed said. Community organizations are better placed than government agencies to effectively overcome that lack of cooperation. “Outreach for so many government agencies means flyers or talking to someone once. But for the communities we work with, mostly immigrant groups, there is deep skepticism [of the census], and so our job is convincing people why it’s [completing the census] not risky, which means talking to them multiple times,” Ahmed said.

Go to Documented to read what the city’s planning department had to say about future funding for the 2020 Census effort.

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