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Op-Ed: Texting counts

Julie Menin, director of NYC Census 2020. (File photo)

By Julie Menin, Director of NYC Census 2020 

In December of last year, NYC Census 2020 launched the City’s first-ever community awards program focused on census-related education and organizing, the Complete Count Fund. The more than 150 awardees serve all 245 New York City neighborhoods in more than 80 languages.

As New Yorkers continue to shelter in place, Complete Count Fund awardees have had to find new ways to conduct outreach. To that end, NYC Census 2020 has partnered with Complete Count Fund awardees to launch a brand new digital organizing campaign across messaging apps like WhatsApp, WeChat, KakaoTalk, and Viber to help spread the word about the 2020 Census. The campaign is based around 15 new group chats housed on these platforms, each designed for a different New York immigrant and language community, from Russian to Korean to Urdu and beyond. These apps often serve as the primary way community members speak to each other, especially as they are social distancing. Each group will act as a hub where trusted community leaders can share key census information and resources that other volunteers can use to help get out the count across their own networks. 

It’s no secret that many of the communities suffering most from COVID-19 include immigrants and people whose first language is not English. And as we at NYC Census 2020 know, these same communities tend to suffer some of the worst undercounts in the census, which results in them getting far less than their fair share of funding for important public resources like hospitals and emergency services. 

These communities desperately need a complete count to get the resources they deserve. And to reach a complete count, New Yorkers need ways to share information from trusted sources and encourage their friends, families, and neighbors to participate in the 2020 Census.

Many New Yorkers have already been doing similar work forming local mutual aid groups and other groups to share information and resources as we fight COVID-19, but language barriers can leave many behind. We welcome all who speak one of the over 200 languages spoken in New York City to join our efforts by joining a WhatsApp group at nyc.gov/census

Making Sense of the Census” is a weekly column from Julie Menin, Director of NYC Census 2020.  Every week we will be publishing pieces from Julie and guest authors laying out the facts and answering tough questions about this year’s census. Fill out the census now at my2020census.gov.

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