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‘United We Count’ Makes Final Push to Include Everyone in Census

Patti Singer

The Interdenominational Health Ministry Coalition is encouraging participation in the census. Provided

The deadline to be counted in the 2020 Census has been moved up from the end of October to Sept. 30.

A month may not seem like much, particularly when the census started in March.

But with billions of dollars at stake for communities across the country, advocates for undercounted neighborhoods are pressing to make sure everyone is counted.

“The pool of money is divided up based on the population of people within a community,” said Jeannie Slaughter, project coordinator for the United We Count census campaign of the Interdenominational Health Ministry Coalition.

The coalition received a grant from the New York state Census Equity Fund to reach Black and Latinx communities. The United We Count project is holding five events in September to reach people in neighborhoods that had a response rate of less than 50% as of June 23.

As of Sept. 1, about 50% of Rochester residents had responded by mail, phone or internet. However, in some census tracts that cover some crescent ZIP codes, the response ranges between 26% and 35%.

Interdenominational Health Ministry Coalition events are scheduled in some of those neighborhoods:

  • Noon to 4 p.m., Sept. 5, Miracle Valley Deliverance City, 290 North St.
  • 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Sept. 12, Youth for Christ, 1 Favor St.
  • 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Sept. 13, Casa de Hair Salon, 1505 N. Goodman St.
  • 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Sept. 19, Inner Faith Gospel Tabernacle, 593 Jay St.
  • 12:30 to 2:30 p.m., Sept. 26, Keeler Apartments, 501 Seneca Manor Drive.

People also will be able to register to vote and get information about COVID-19, but the focus is on encouraging people to complete the census. Staff from the Census Bureau will be available to help.

Slaughter went online when the census began, but she said some people lack a computer. Other barriers to completing the census are misinformation and not understanding the importance of having every person counted.

“When you start saying, there’s an impact to the money your schools get, there’s an impact to lunch programs, there’s an imapct to SNAP programs, there’s an impact to the amount of money money that comes in for housing. When you put it in those terms, the light bulb goes off and people are more inclined to say, ‘I understand, I need to complete the census.’ ”

The census does not track personal information, such as Social Security numbers. It also is not used by immigration officials. Still, she said some people mistrust the government.

Speaking from her personal perspective, she said that mistrust has become more pronounced.

“I don’t think that it’s helping that there’s such divisiveness in so many things going on in the government that’s spilling out into our communities, especially Black and Latino communities,” she said. “Data proves that Black people and people of color are more impacted by COVID and death rate is higher, even though there’s a smaller population. Then you see all the violence going on in Rochester and around the country, innocent lives being taken. Those make people skeptical and it makes people kind of get hopeless instead of being hopeful. They’re afraid and they’re distrustful of anything associated with the government. Not all people, but lot of people, especially people who are misinformed and don’t understand.”

For residents who don’t fill out their form or go online or phone in the information, census workers follow up at homes. They will repeatedly visit a home so they can record the number of adults and children at the residence so they can get as accurate a count as possible and ensure the community is properly represented when federal funds are disbursed.