By Jessica Kulick
Day and night 24/7 news coverage about coronavirus inundates us. We are living in an unprecedented moment with the impact felt across the globe. Our way of life may never be the same. First and foremost, we at Ariva are here for you. As many of us struggle to survive right now, we want you to know that the Ariva team is thinking of you, our communities in the Bronx and across New York City, and our hardworking community partners. We are New Yorkers. We are resilient and we will get through this.
We also want to highlight one thing you can do right now to make a difference for our city for the next ten years: take the 2020 Census.
The Census is a constitutionally-mandated (i.e. legally required) count of every single person living in the United States, as well the U.S. territories of Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The Census determines how hundreds of billions of dollars get allocated every year for vital public services like hospitals, schools, and fire departments, key programs like Medicaid and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, commonly referred to as food stamps), as well as essential infrastructure like roads.
You’ve likely noticed reports of the urgent needs of hospitals across the country, nearly all of which were unprepared for a public health emergency of this scale. By getting counted — and making sure that your family and friends get counted as well — you directly impact your local government’s ability to accurately plan for emergencies exactly like this one. Because if local authorities know that you and your family are here, they can take into account how many people they need to prepare for, and they have the funding in place to do it.
The Census also determines how legislative district lines are drawn, as well as how many seats each state holds in Congress. There are 435 total representatives, and while every single state is guaranteed at least one representative, each state’s delegation changes as a result of the Census, with states either gaining or losing seats based on shifts in population. This process is called “apportionment.” For example, after the 2010 Census, New York State lost two seats in the House of Representatives, so NY currently has 27 congressional districts/representatives. New York City alone has 12 of those districts, and frankly, it should be more! In 2010, the NYC Census participation rate was only 62% — compare that to the national average of 76%. Can you imagine what a 100% participation rate would look like for NYC? We can!
Trillions of dollars of federal money are allocated as a result of Census data, and much of it goes towards healthcare and health resources. For example, it helps fund programs like the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), Medicaid and Medicare, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Children, and Infants (WIC), as well as community health centers in both urban and rural areas. Additionally, shifts in political power, like the one that follows apportionment, impact public health policies such as the Affordable Care Act.
Finally, it’s important to remember that citizenship is not a requirement of participation. No matter your immigration status, getting counted in the census is your right! And although last year the Trump administration tried to include a question about citizenship status, the Supreme Court struck this down and it is not included in the 2020 Census questionnaire.
Your data is 100% confidential because the Census Bureau is bound by Title 13 to protect your answers — in fact, every employee takes an oath to protect your personal information for life. This means that the Bureau cannot release any identifiable information about you, your home, or your business, even to law enforcement agencies.
We will make it through this health crisis together, and you can do your part by sheltering in place, washing your hands frequently, maintaining six feet of distance between yourself and others when going out for essentials like groceries…and taking the 2020 Census.
Do you have questions or concerns about the Census? We are here to help! Comment below — we’ll be watching this space as well as our social media channels (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn) to help you and your family get counted. Everyone’s voice matters!