ACNJ emphasizes importance of Census to Assembly Women and Children Committee

On February 3rd, Vega and ACNJ Vice President Mary Coogan spoke to the Committee about everything that the New Jersey Census Coalition is doing to ensure a complete count for the Census, from handing out materials to educating others on the Census in general.

In response, Assemblywoman Gabriela Mosquera (D-Camden, Gloucester) is sponsoring two resolutions that would increase Census participation, citing ACNJ’s testimony. Read the press release.

Read the testimony below:

To: Assemblywoman Gabriela M. Mosquera, Chair
Assemblywoman Lisa Swain, Vice Chair
Members of the Assembly Women and Children Committee

From: Mary Coogan and Alana Vega, Advocates for Children of New Jersey

Date: February 3, 2020
Re: Census 2020

Thank you for your interest in the 2020 Census. Advocates for Children of New Jersey (ACNJ) appreciates the opportunity to share some information about the upcoming Census and as well as information about activities throughout the state and ways you all may be able to help ensure that New Jersey has a complete count this year.

Assemblywoman Mosquera, as a member of New Jersey’s Complete Count Commission you already know how important a complete count is to New Jersey. Thank you for your support of this effort and the statewide outreach that is ongoing. 

As you all know, the U.S. Census is a national survey conducted every ten years by the U.S. Census Bureau to count EVERY living person in the United States. People of all ages, races, and ethnic groups as well as citizens and non-citizens must be counted. The Census is so much more than just a head count. Its results will impact New Jersey for the next ten years.

The census count helps determine New Jersey’s number of seats in the house of representatives, its number of votes in the electoral college, and our voting district boundaries.

The census count helps to determine the distribution of more than $22.7 billion in federal funds to New Jersey each year to support important programs and services like Medicare, Medicaid, Head Start, schools, hospitals, roads, and more. In your folders is a handout from Counting for Dollars, a project that highlights different programs whose allocations are impacted by Census data. These programs touch all New Jersey residents in some way. We are all affected if we do not have a complete count.

Census data are used for important planning purposes so that we know where to build more roads and schools when populations are growing. We at ACNJ uses census data to produce our Kids Count reports so an accurate census is very important to us!

This morning we want to highlight some information that we think everyone should know about the census. To that end we have put together a folder with some of our printed handouts and some slides from our community presentations.

Beginning March 12, 2020, New Jersey residents will receive an invitation to complete their census forms either online, on the telephone or by mail. Completing the census questionnaire through the U.S. Census Bureau website or on the telephone is new this year.

As the Census Bureau likes to say, the Census is easy, safe and important! The questions asked cover the basics: name, age, date of birth, gender, race or ethnic background, relationship to the person completing the form, head of household, and whether the residents own or rent. These should be completed for each person residing at that address.

In addition to English, people can respond to the Census online or by phone in 12 different languages:

  • Spanish           
  • Chinese
  • Vietnamese
  • Korean
  • Russian
  • Arabic
  • Tagalog
  • Polish
  • French
  • Haitian Creole
  • Portuguese
  • Japanese

The paper form will be available in English and Spanish.

The Census Bureau will NEVER ask for one’s social security number, money, donations, or bank and credit card information.

ACNJ became involved in outreach about the census through a grant from the Annie Casey Foundation to focus on the hard-to-count population of children under the age of 5. It is estimated that the number of children in this age group missed in the 2010 census was about 2 million nationally and 27,000 in New Jersey. There are other hard-to-count populations such as non-English speaking residents, highly mobile individuals, renters, and people of color. These groups will require more outreach as they are most at risk of being missed in the upcoming count.  

The reasons some folks are missed in the Census count can be complicated, but some of the most common reasons include: language barriers and fear or mistrust of the government. Other reasons may include an unlisted address in a multi-unit building or unregistered apartment such as in a basement or attic.

In the case of young children, most were missed because they were left off the form. ACNJ began our work by contacting those who interact with families of young children: child care providers. We have provided information and training to child care and head start staff throughout the state who can now share information with parents and caretakers.

This work is privately funded through New Jersey foundations that fund ACNJ’s early learning work: Henry & Marilyn Taub Foundation, Maher Charitable Foundation, The Burke Foundation,

The Schumann Fund for New Jersey and Turrell Fund.

The statewide outreach being done by a coalition of nonprofits was spearheaded by Kiki Jamieson, President of The Fund for New Jersey. Kiki Jamieson has also raised private funding from the New Jersey philanthropic community and they should be applauded and recognized for their efforts and support. The Victoria Foundation and the Russell Berrie Foundation are also supporting ACNJ’s statewide outreach.

The Census 2020 NJ Coalition includes the following organizations: The New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, Latino Action Network Foundation, Wind of the Spirit, Asian American Federation, Make the Road New Jersey, League of Women Voters New Jersey, The National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO), New Jersey Citizen Action, Action Together New Jersey and the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey. We divided up cities with significant hard-to-count populations, so that we could spread out and efficiently use our limited resources. At the same time, we worked with the staff of the New Jersey Complete Count Commission to connect with communities and counties interested in organizing a complete count committee to coordinate a plan of action.

Coalition members are in touch on a regular basis so that we don’t duplicate efforts. For the most part, communities have been responsive and interested in helping with the outreach. ACNJ is providing technical assistance, training and printing materials, both our own and the great materials developed by the Census Bureau. This is important as counties and organizations are implementing their plans with state grants and do not necessarily have the time to create materials.

In your folders are some of our fact sheets and those of one of our partners, the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. They also have materials in several languages.

So what can you all do to help? The resolutions being considered today are a great way to bring attention to the upcoming census and to help encourage a full count. There are lots of no cost and low-cost things that we can all do and we are here to ask your assistance in this outreach.

First share the information that we just shared with you, with your colleagues, community, family and friends and ask them to share it as well. You can put information on your website or share through your social media. Perhaps you have a listserv or a newsletter through which you can share information with your constituents. There are complete count committees that will be scheduling events and coordinating locations where NJ residents can go to complete their census questionnaire. You can promote these events and locations. Perhaps attend an event which will bring more publicity to the effort and increase the turnout.

Perhaps you have contacts with media through which you can share census information or urge residents in your community to complete their census. While the federal Census Bureau and the State of New Jersey will make media buys, we all know that there are non-traditional media outlets that we all rely on for information.

Now that you are all experts, please wear your “Ask me about the Census” button and help us spread the word! 

Thank you!

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