Upstate counties and cities are competing to achieve the best U.S. Census response rate before Census volunteers come knocking. The goal of the US Census Bureau's “PUSH Week” is to increase participation in the 2020 Census.
Syracuse hovers right around 50%, jockeying near other Upstate cities such as Rochester and Buffalo. Assistant New York Region Census Manager Lisa Moore says most people who don’t participate are worried about privacy.
“We will not share our census data. Any information that would identify an individual cannot be shared with any other federal, state or local agencies,” Moore said. “We can’t share information with law enforcement agencies. We can’t share that information with your landlord.”
But Moore believes the global pandemic is also cutting into the response rate. The Census Bureau typically relies on in-person participation for a large portion of the results. Moore says she has seen some success with 'trusted partners', locations an dagencies that rely on state-aid, like food pantries.
“This food pantry relies on having this accurate count, so that they can support the feeding of the community. Seeing the importance of it is profound,” Moore said. “We are noticing the region and the state is really seeing some great results when we tap into that person-to-person ability as much as possible.”
Syracuse especially needs strong returns. Mayor Ben Walsh says the City is facing a large budget deficit amid COVID-19.
“We have a lot on the line in terms of federal funding, and we only have one chance every ten years to do this. We want to make sure we do it right.”
Moore also emphasized the importance of participating in the Census for political representation. If enough people choose not to fill out the Census, their state could lose a member of Congress or their city could lose representation in the State Legislature.
Census takers will begin knocking on doors August 11th for households that have not responded. You can participate online at 2020census.gov or by phone at (844) 330-2020.