Fear of losing Federal money and reps, Mayor pushes city to complete census

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Mayor Bill de Blasio brought together people from all ethnic and religious background in a call to complete the census at his almamater NYU. Inset photo is Bill de Blasio in his college days, causing a ruckus on Washington Square East in 1981 (Copyright Todd Maisel).

It sounded more like a college prep rally as city leaders led chants at a New York University auditorium Tuesday morning of “Complete the Count.”

This was New York City’s “Complete the Count Campaign”, the nation’s largest and most diverse coordinated municipal campaign to achieve a complete and accurate count in the 2020 Census.

Mayor Bill de Blasio led the rally, as he did when he was a student there in 1981 leading a protest for student equity and efforts to reduce tuition – ‘a rabble rouser’ he said of that era. This time, the Mayor said Washington D.C. and the Trump administration is focused on cutting federal fund and even removing some congressional representatives should the census be under-counted.

“This matters so much because it means the difference if we will be living in a democracy or not,” de Blasio said. “If we get an under-count, we can lose people in Congress, up to two representatives. The federal government will take billions of dollars from you.”

“New York City has been on the front lines of the resistance against the Trump Administration and ensuring every New Yorker gets counted is central to that fight,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “No matter how hard the federal government tries to silence our diverse voices, we still stand up and be counted.”

Rabbi Daniel Niederman sits in the front row for the rally with city residents of all types of backgrounds. (Photo by Todd Maisel)
Mayor Bill de Blasio greets Hazel Dukes of the NAACP. (Photo by Todd Maisel)

With just eight weeks until New Yorkers can begin completing the census online for the first time starting March 12, 2020, Mayor de Blasio and NYC Census 2020 Director Julie Menin also announced that the City will invest $3 million in community and ethnic media advertising to ensure participation among the city’s most historically undercounted communities. This figure represents the largest such investment by the City in local and community media for any campaign to date. The census campaign will be advertising in a minimum of 16 languages, including several languages spoken by New Yorkers with high levels of limited proficiency in English.

The city will be spending between $6-8 million on advertising to get residents to complete the census. Menin said they will be spending $3-4 million alone on print advertising to reach out to voters in all religious and cultural backgrounds.

“When you threaten us, we fight back,” said the mayor to thunderous applause.

Menin said up to 300 city programs will be threatened should there be an under-count of city residents, including Headstart, Medicaid.

Mayor Bill de Blasio brought together people from all ethnic and religious background in a call to complete the census – the counting to begin soon. (Photo by Todd Maisel)

“This is the largest city investment in ads, both print and digital, ever done by the city and it will be done in 16 languages,” Menin said. “We must get a proper count or we lose federal funding and Congressional seats.”

Among the organizations represented at this rally were: Association for a Better New York (ABNY); Asian American Federation; Asian Americans for Equality; Brooklyn NAACP; Center for Law and Social Justice at Medgar Evers College; Chinese-American Planning Council; Community Resource Exchange; Hester Street; Hispanic Federation; Make the Road — New York; New York Immigration Coalition; NALEO Educational Fund; United Neighborhood House; The United Way of New York City.

Margi Trapani of the Center for Independence of the Disabled, said there is much to be lost for people with disabilities.

“People with disabilities have been invisible for a long time,” said “Being disabled translates into not being counted in a number of ways – so we are delighted to take part in the census because people with disabilities count.”

Deborah Williams, organizing director for District Council 37, representing municipal employees, said not being counted can cost the city a lot.

“It is important for us because we want to make sure our members are counted,” said  “Getting a good count will make sure that people will receive the services they desperately need, and families to have a quality of life.”

NYC Census 2020 was established as a first-of-its-kind organizing initiative by Mayor de Blasio in January 2019 to ensure a complete and accurate count of all New Yorkers in the 2020 Census. The program is built on four pillars: (1) a community-based awards program, The New York City Complete Count Fund; (2) an in-house “Get Out the Count” field campaign that is supported by the smart use of data and technology; (3) an innovative, multilingual, tailored messaging and marketing campaign; as well as (4) an in-depth Agency and Partnerships engagement plan that seeks to leverage the power of the City’s 350,000-strong workforce and the city’s major institutions, including libraries, hospitals, faith-based, cultural institutions, higher educational institutions, and more, to communicate with New Yorkers about the critical importance of census participation.

Mayor Bill de Blasio brought together people from all ethnic and religious background in a call to complete the census – the counting to begin soon. (Photo by Todd Maisel)