Accurate Count

Accurate Count

City, County prepare for 2020 Census, announce job openings

Mayor Ben Walsh and Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon have joined forces to encourage neighborhood agencies to become partners in the 2020 census outreach campaign. They want to ensure no one is missed in the upcoming count.

U.S. census representatives visited Syracuse Dec. 12 to talk about why an accurate count of all New York residents is so crucially important. Elizabeth Burakowski, deputy director of Upstate Revitalization for New York State Homes and Community Renewal, explained data from the final 2020 count is used to calculate legislative representation and allot $675 billion in federal funds to nonprofit programs.

The more people counted in any region, the more money and representation in congress it will receive. An accurate count is critical to protect New York’s share of that funding — estimated at $53 billion each year, according to the state’s Department of State.

Deputy Mayor Sharon Owens spoke after the representatives to stress the census count’s importance. “Our Community Development Block Grant dollars are based on a formula from the census data, so it’s scary to not get an accurate count,” she said.

The visiting representatives discussed strategies for reaching hard-to-count populations like refugees and non-English speakers, people living in poverty, children under the age of 5 and African-American males between the ages of 18-24.

Ian Hull, an assistant division chief for the census, said a test of the census count was conducted last year in Providence County, R.I. He said the results found the most difficult group to get an accurate count of proved to be young, adult black males. Working in partnership with the Urban League, a suggestion was made to place kiosks in barbershops where individuals could complete census forms.

Such creative ideas and partnerships are exactly what the U.S. Census Bureau hopes local agencies can help develop here in Syracuse. Efforts are already underway to develop a Complete Count Committee of volunteers to increase awareness about the census and motivate residents to respond.

Later in 2019, a field office will open in Syracuse with advertising and outreach efforts launching in early 2020. From March through July 2020, census takers will go door to door to non-responders. The final count is due to the president by Dec. 31, 2020.

Results will be released to the public by April 2021.

Hull said 500,000 new jobs will be offered nationwide in the next two years in preparation of the census count completed that April 1. The majority of the job openings are field positions with a limited number of office support and management positions. Hiring is underway and will continue through spring of 2020.

The 2020 census will also be the first time residents can respond online. Hull noted there are three ways to file: online, by completing the mail-in form and by phone. Information provided is used to compile statistical data at the local, state and national levels. Officials said personal information on individuals will never be released. The goal of the census is to count everyone once.

“Wherever you are living on April 1, 2020 that is where you are to be counted,” Hull said.

Visiting representatives said that some — such as undocumented workers living in the U.S. — are cautious about sharing personal information and may want to abstain from completing the form. They hope people fill out the form anyway.

Last March, the U.S. Commerce Department requested that citizenship status be added to the 2020 census. After the question was announced, 17 states, including California and New York, filed suit seeking its removal. On Jan. 15, a judge for the U.S. Southern District of New York enjoined the Secretary of Commerce from adding the question to the 2020 Census.

The U.S. Supreme Court said it would not hear an appeal, although an emergency request could still be filed.

“The goal is for everyone to be counted,” Burakowski said. “This will ensure New York has the political power and funding it is supposed to have.”

— By Ashley Kang, The Stand Director