By Jessica Easthope
Every 10 years the census aims to count the entire U.S. population, but it’s not an easy task.
It’s estimated that four million Americans won’t be counted in the 2020 census. Even though legislative representation and billions of dollars in federal funding are at stake, Catholic Charities of New York is looking to close that gap.
“This is the way government structures are funded and now more than ever the way New York was hit, we want to make sure we get the COVID support three, five, 10 years down the line,” said Eddie Silverio, the Division Director of Communities Services for Catholic Charities of New York.
On Sept. 16 Catholic Charities joined forces with several community organizations in the Highbridge section of the Bronx to boost census turn out. In the Bronx, just over 60 percent of households have filled out the census. Organizers say that’s a failing grade, but by making their presence known they drew in people like Kelly Woods.
Kelly used to be homeless, but after landing on her feet she understands how important the census is, and is participating for the first time.
“It’s important to us, it can better us, our lifestyles, our jobs, our environment, basically everything in life that we’re working on,” Kelly told Currents News.
Low census turnout isn’t only a problem in the Bronx — it’s citywide. In the Diocese of Immigrants, 60.6 percent of Queens households have filled out the census and Brooklyn has the worst numbers in the entire city, with 56.6 percent.
Areas with high numbers of undocumented immigrants have historically low turnouts. Organizers say it’s because they fear it will impact their immigration status. That was the case for Matilde Gonzalez.
“I think it’s very important especially for Spanish people, we’re always behind the door, scared to do things but now is the time that we stand up and we count,” Matilde said.
Not only is the census a matter of getting proper funding, organizers say it’s a Catholic issue.
“For us as Catholics it’s an issue of fairness and participation in civic life,” said Monsignor Kevin Sullivan, the Executive Director of Catholic Charities of New York.
“We as Catholics always want to do right by people and do right by our neighbors, and this is the way to do right by our neighbors,” said Eddie Silverio.
Catholic Charities expected to get 350 new households to fill out the census on Wednesday. The deadline to complete it is September 30.