November 15 2018

Concern over 2020 Census discussed

Make yourself count!

That was the overriding message on Tuesday evening at Borough President Melinda Katz’s Queens 2020 Census Town Hall, where concern over the proposed inclusion of a question on citizenship was also center stage.

Dozens of area residents, including representatives of elected officials and civic organizations, gathered at Borough Hall to learn how the Census will determine Queens’ representation in the U.S. House of Representatives and how much federal funding the borough will receive for the next 10 years, as well as how they, and anyone else, can participate in this outreach effort.

“Every voice that is heard, everyone who fills out that Census ... is more money for education, for our streets, for our senior centers, for housing, for everything ... it all comes from the United States Census. This transcends politics,” Katz said.

“I am committed to having an accurate count in the Borough of Queens,” she said. Toward that goal, she announced the formation of the Queens Complete Count Committee.

The committee will be an autonomous and bipartisan group of community leaders who together will identify the possible obstacles and their solutions in ensuring that their community is accurately represented in the Census.

Members of the committee, drawn from businesses, community groups, government officials and other public-serving entities, will coordinate local organizations, communities and the Census Bureau, and help to develop and implement a locally based outreach and promotion effort.

“Messaging has to be key,” Katz told the crowd. “You need to bring the message back to the communities that you represent.”

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, the mission of the Census is “to serve as the nation’s leading provider of quality data about its people and economy,” with its purpose being “to conduct a Census of population and housing and disseminate the results to the President, the States, and the American People.”

Its slogan — and goal — is to “count everyone once, only once and in the right place.”

Jeff Behler, regional director of the New York Regional Office of the U.S. Census Bureau, noted that the Census is mandated by the U.S. Constitution.

According to U.S. Code Title 13, enacted in 1954, “Private information is never published, including names, addresses and telephone numbers.” The code further indicates that the Census Bureau collects information to produce statistics and that “personal information collected by the Census Bureau cannot be used against respondents by any government agency or court.”

Not everyone is buying it.

The citizenship question, which would be included in the main Census for the first time in 70 years, is seen by some as discriminating against immigrants and minorities.

“No one knows what the effects of that question will be,” said Phillip Thompson, deputy mayor of Strategic Policy Initiatives, Office of the Mayor.

John Park, executive director of the MinKwon Center for Community Action and a board member of NY Counts 2020, said the question would have a “larger impact on our community than in most places.”

Individuals will have four opportunities to complete their Census forms: online, by telephone, on paper or through a personal visit from a Census employee.

Behler indicated that internet self-response will be available in 12 non-English languages; 59 non-English language guides will be available on video and in print.

Census Day is April 1, 2020. Non-response follow-up begins in March of that year and continues through July. Apportionment counts are due to the president by Dec. 31, 2020. Redistricting counts to the states are due by March 31, 2021.

Recruitment for area Census office staffing will begin in earnest in the spring of 2019, according to Behler. Various positions will be available, including managerial openings, recruiting assistants and Census field supervisor.

Joseph Salvo, director of the Population Division of the Department of City Planning, made it clear that “we have to do everything we can to get people to respond” to the Census. “The population of Queens is very dynamic. Capturing it in a Census is difficult.”

To join the 2020 Census team, visit or call 1 (855) 562-2020.