New York City census director explains why participating in the 2020 census is crucial for the state

Director of Census for New York Julie Menin speaks at Census 2020 rally outside of City Hall Park.
Photo by Tequila Minsky

New York City is halfway to getting everyone counted in the 2020 census.

As of July 21, New York State as a whole has a 57.8% self-response rate, compared to the national rate of 62.3%. New York City has a 53.6% self-response rate, with a 55.2% rate in Manhattan, a 50.8% rate in Brooklyn, a 54.9% rate in the Bronx, a 53.7% in Queens, and a 58.5% in Staten Island. 

“We still have a long way to go to get everyone in New York counted,” said Julie Menin, Director of NYC Census 2020. “This is not the time to be invisible.”

Menin stated that now more than ever it’s incredibly important to participate in the census because the city and state often relies on census data to fund city and state programs, and could even determine how much representation New York has in Congress.

“So many programs rely on the census, like funding for schools, senior housing, and so many more. New York currently has 27 seats in Congress. If we undercount, it could drop down to 25,” said Menin. “It can even help with COVID. Back when New York had a measles outbreak, the Department of Health looked to census data to know how many vaccines to order.”

Due to the pandemic, the 2020 census deadline has been extended to Oct. 31. Currently, there are three ways to self-respond to the census: online at mycensus2020.gov, over the phone, or by mailing in the questionnaire that was originally sent out. Even with these measures in place, the NYC Census is stepping up its efforts to get more people counted.

As of July 14, the NYC Census team has called 1,060,900 New Yorkers using their “Virtual Phonebank” tool, allowing them to directly reach 182,355 individuals and encouraged them to complete the census. The NYC Census 2020 team has also sent 5,901,035 text messages through Hustle, reaching 1,500,141 different New Yorkers.

Menin also noted that NYC Census 2020 will be bringing back door-knockers in August who will go door-to-door to those who have not filled out the census yet.

“Most people do not respond to the census,” said Menin. “Door-knocking is a critical component to the census. If you don’t want a knock at the door, you can fill out the census.”

Menin also noted that NYC Census 2020 can get the green light to open up 300 pop-up sites that can help New Yorkers who lack access to the internet to fill out the census. 

“We had planned the pop-up sites pre-COVID,” said Menin. “These sites are critical, considering one-third of New Yorkers lack access to broadband.”

Throughout 2020, NYC Census 2020 has rolled out various ad campaigns to encourage self-response to the census, including 15 paid campaigns to date and a dozen “organic” campaigns, which were in 26 languages across 175+ publications/outlets/sites across 7 mediums, and a first-of-its-kind digital organizing campaign through WhatsApp, KakaoTalk, and WeChat in 16 languages. They have also distributed posters in over 900 businesses throughout New York City.

Additionally, as of July 10, NYC Census 2020 has now provided direct, on-the-ground, one-on-one assistance with completing the 2020 Census to approximately 1,175 New York City households at 39 food distribution sites across the five boroughs in multiple languages. NYC Census 2020 is also running a contest for those who have filled out the census to win a $1,000 gift certificate for Seamless. To enter, visit the New York City Census Contest Page and fill out the information and your census completion number.

For more information or to fill out the census, visit mycensus2020.gov.

Updated at 4:10 p.m.

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