Census 2020 and Your Municipality — Help Your Town Get It’s Fair Share Through a Proper Count

NJMMA members recently attended a session on the importance of the 2020 Census for their municipalities. The session was jointly held by Lisa Moore, Assistant Regional Census Manager at the U.S. Census Bureau, and Alana Vega, the Kids Count Coordinator at Advocates for Children of New Jersey.

With the April 1st Census Day just around the corner, Moore said that Census mailing packages will begin to be sent in early March. What constituents receive in the mail will differ depending on their town and local and regional demographics.

The majority of the push for the 2020 Census will be for online submissions, with 2020 being the first year that allows people to fill out the Census form online. There will be 12 non-English language translations available by phone and online, and 59 language translations available in written and video materials.

“Members of the local community will be hired to do the area canvassing,” Moore said. “We need somebody from the local community to better speak to those in the community who may be averse to filling out the Census form.”

Lisa Moore, U.S. Census Bureau speaks to the NJMMA.

Different toolkits are available online for both municipalities and community partners, and the Census Bureau been working with congressional partners to host town halls and job fairs.

Moore also mentioned that it is important for municipalities to be well-versed in the types of questions that may arise during the Census. Specifically, members of the community should be wary of scams such as fake canvassers who ask for bank accounts. “Census employees will never ask for your financial information, your party affiliation, your citizenship or any other personal information,” she said. “We just want to know how many people are living in your household. Anything more than that should be looked upon with skepticism.”

Both Moore and Vega underscored the importance the census plays to both government and its constituents. The Census helps to determine where $675 billion in federal funds are distributed to communities nationwide for clinics, schools, roads and more. It also gives community leaders vital information to make decisions and redraw legislative districts.

Moore also highlighted that all census responses are confidential and protected by federal law. They will only be used to produce statistics and will not be shared with any other government agency or court in any way.

“If you haven’t contacted the Census Bureau, I’d recommend you do so,” Vega told NJMMA members. “They have partnership directors that can help you host town halls, identify community leaders to target for further partnership, and much more.”

Vega also recommended that municipalities engage local media in their area. She said that while the Census Bureau will interact with media organizations on a statewide scale, your municipalities will have a better idea of which media partners matter in your community more than the bureau will.

Another recommendation from Vega and Moore is to designate Census kiosk locations based on the state’s recommendations. Census kiosks are mobile areas, basically just a laptop and information, to allow those who may not have access to the internet or mobile devices to fill out their Census response. Kiosks should be in an easily accessible public space, such as a library, for your residents to access.

All of these resources can be found on the Census Bureau’s website at www.census.gov or by calling your regional Census representatives.