A Manhattan Neighborhood Prepares for the Census

Community Board 8 is hosting workshops on the Upper East Side to raise awareness of the count and to inform residents about census-related job opportunities

Aug 16 2019 | 12:57 PM

As the nation prepares for the 2020 Census, the Upper East Side’s community board, CB8, is taking measures to ensure that every New Yorker is counted. Thus far this summer, the community board’s census task force has hosted five job opportunities workshops throughout the district, in collaboration with the United States Census Bureau, to encourage people to apply to work for the bureau.

The census, which takes place once a decade and is mandated in the Constitution, tries to account for every resident of the United States. Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer articulated the importance that every New Yorker participate in the census in an op-ed in Our Town. “The results affect states’ and cities’ representation in Congress as well as state and local political boundaries — and they also directly affect how much federal funding communities receive for everything from schools to transportation infrastructure. The stakes are high, and there’s more reason than ever to start preparing in advance,” she wrote.

Thousands of Workers Needed

To assist in the collection of census information, the bureau is hiring for a variety of temporary positions. These include census takers, recruiting assistants, office staff, and supervisory staff. Any U.S. citizen with a valid social security number who is at least 18 years old is eligible to submit an application online, according to the Census Bureau’s website. Chair of the CB8 Census Task Force, Loraine Brown, said that the bureau is looking for approximately 55,000 New Yorkers to assist in the 2020 census.

The most recent jobs workshop organized by CB8, which took place Thursday, August 8th at the Lenox Hill Senior Center at 343 East 70th Street, resulted in 45 people submitting applications. One of those applicants, Karen—who asked that we not use her last name—said that, although she is retired, she still enjoys working, and a census is an appealing way to supplement her income. “I would like to be of service to make sure it’s done correctly,” she said.

The 2020 Census has become a political lightning rod in light of the Trump administration’s desire to add a citizenship question to the questionnaire. Though the U.S. Supreme Court stymied the president’s efforts to add such a question in a recent ruling, many still fear that undocumented immigrants will be reluctant to participate in the census.

Brown said that people hired by the bureau will go through training to learn how to address relevant concerns regarding the census. “We need to assure the undocumented people that [the citizenship question] is no longer an issue,” she said. “Everything that they fill out in the questionnaire is confidential. It cannot be shared with anyone...If [the bureau] gets a request from the White House to share the information, they can’t do it.”

The First Digital Census

The 2020 Census has also garnered attention for its new digital component; for the first time since the initial census was conducted in 1790, respondents will be able to submit the questionnaire online. Every household will have the option to respond to the questionnaire online, by mail, or by the phone, according to a pamphlet published by the bureau. As a final step, if households fail to submit a questionnaires using one of those methods, enumerators will knock on doors requesting them to fill out the questionnaires in person.

Brown, who is personally passionate about informing New Yorkers about the census, has resolved to do everything in her power — as a member of the community board and as an individual — to spread awareness of the census. “I want everyone to benefit. If they’re not counted, there’s going to be a shortfall. I want to be sure we get our fair share,” she said. In addition to planning monthly workshops, Brown said that she will continue to hand out fliers on street corners, at Costco, and on the subway to spread the word about National Census Day, which arrives on April 1, 2020.