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In Historic Expansion of Census 2020 Outreach Efforts Mayor de Blasio Invests $1.4 Million in City's Library Systems

August 1, 2019

NYC Census 2020 Will Fund Efforts Across Entire System, with Priority Given to Approximately 90 Branches Serving Historically Undercounted Communities

NEW YORK—Mayor Bill de Blasio announced today that NYC Census 2020, the City’s first-of-its-kind census outreach and engagement campaign, is investing more than $1.4 million in an unprecedented partnership with New York City’s three public library systems – the New York Public Library, the Brooklyn Public Library, and the Queens Public Library – to count every New Yorker in the upcoming 2020 Census.  

Funding libraries to conduct census outreach and provide internet access will be a critical component of NYC Census 2020’s campaign to combat the fear and disinformation resulting from the specter of the now-defeated citizenship question, as well as bridge the digital divide that has left hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers without regular, reliable access to the internet.

The funding being announced today is one of the cornerstones of the City’s overall historic $40 million investment in census outreach, organizing, and public awareness, which includes a large community-based grants program, a field operation, as well as innovative, robust, and multi-lingual media and marketing efforts.

“New York City has been on the front lines of the resistance against the Trump Administration and ensuring every New Yorker gets counted is central to our fight,” said Mayor de Blasio. “We cannot let the federal government silence our diversity of voices. Our partnership with the public library system will help all New Yorkers stand up and be counted.”

“You might think we’ve come a long way since the three-fifths compromise, but when it comes to the Census, make no mistake: the Trump Administration thinks it’s 1820, not 2020. We’re not going to let them use this critically important civil rights exercise to erase us from the map, which is why every one of our major public institutions, from hospitals to housing, and to the 90 library branches serving our most undercounted neighborhoods will be leveraged to get every New Yorker counted next year,” said Deputy Mayor for Strategic Policy Initiatives Phil Thompson.

"Our three library systems are the foundation of the City's cultural and civic ideals," said Vicki Been, Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development.  "For countless families, libraries serve as trusted sources for information, services, and programming. With this plan, we will encourage civic engagement and improve New Yorkers' access to the census and related resources."

The partnership between NYC Census 2020, led by Director Julie Menin, and the three public library systems, will enable libraries to expand and better leverage their existing capabilities to assist New Yorkers to complete the census form, which will be online for the first time. The funding will support activities across the three library systems, with priority given to the approximately 90 branches that serve historically undercounted communities.

“Our job is to get every New Yorker counted in next year’s census, and we’ll only be able to do our job by partnering with the libraries, which serve as among the most trusted voices in communities across the city. With this investment, together, we will combat the fear and disinformation about the census created by the Trump Administration, and also bridge the digital divide that could create barriers for New Yorkers to stand up and be counted in next year’s census, no matter where they live or what language they speak,” said NYC Census 2020 Director Julie Menin.

“The enormous success of IDNYC, one of the City of New York’s most successful public programs to date, would not have been possible without our close and extensive partnership with the city’s three library systems,” said Bitta Mostofi, Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs. “Libraries are central hubs to immigrant New Yorkers who rely on the library systems every single day to get access to critical services and programming, citizenship classes, and access to the internet, among so much else. We are proud to be partnering with NYC Census 2020 to fight the Trump Administration’s attempt to use the census as a tool to harm immigrant communities, and we look forward to working closely with our sister agencies, community-based organizations, and all of the city’s public institutions to ensure a fair and complete count in next year’s census.”

NYC Census 2020’s funding will cover:

  • Technology: libraries will be able to significantly expand the ability for New Yorkers, especially those lacking internet access, to participate online in the census as a result of investments in laptops, tablets, and other similar technological solutions;
  • Training and translations: the libraries’ front-line staff will be trained and equipped to help New Yorkers from all backgrounds gain access to information about the census, with a focus on priority branches;
  • Operational support: extended library hours will be funded in priority neighborhoods to convene census-related activities, such as informational sessions and periods of time when New Yorkers can access the internet to participate in the census;
  • Marketing: library-specific messaging will be created to reach local communities in dozens of languages, and to raise awareness about libraries’ role in the decennial census; and
  • Personnel: civic engagement staff will be brought on to engage New Yorkers on the census and activate grassroots interest across the library systems.

By resourcing a large, trusted, citywide network of local institutions, the City is significantly expanding its capacity to ensure that all New Yorkers participate in the 2020 Census, which will help determine the allocation of more than $650 billion in federal funding, in addition to the apportionment of seats to states in the House of Representatives (and, thus, the Electoral College, as well).

Current population change estimates indicate that New York State could lose up to two congressional seats following the 2020 Census, making a complete and accurate count a top priority for the City, which has historically been significantly undercounted compared to the rest of the country. In 2010, New York City’s self-response rate to the census was just 61.9%, with the national self-response average being 76%.

“This investment in the City’s public library system will help ensure New Yorkers have easy to access help and guidance at public libraries as the 2020 Census proceeds. Because this is the first Census with an online response option, we need to make sure that those affected by the digital divide get the same opportunity to respond.  As a longtime advocate of a fair and accurate Census count, I look forward to continue working with the Mayor and other NY elected officials to help ensure every New York resident is successfully counted,” said Congressman José Serrano.

“Hundreds of billion dollars and fair political representation are at stake in the upcoming 2020 Census. We won’t ensure a complete and accurate count without a robust outreach strategy. Brooklyn is considered the hardest to count of all 62 counties in New York, which is why we launched the #MakeBrooklynCount campaign last year. I applaud Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner Menin on this forward-thinking move to enlist libraries in the fight to make all New Yorkers count,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams.

“The City Council commends Mayor de Blasio and NYC Census 2020 for making this essential investment in libraries. New York City's three public libraries systems serve as trusted community anchors in every neighborhood. In our city where nearly 30 percent of the population lacks internet access, they will play an outsized role in bridging the digital divide to ensure that families who don’t have internet access at home, often in hard-to-count communities, can be counted in the 2020 Census. The Council’s 2020 Census Task Force and all our members look forward to partnering with libraries to ensure we get a complete count in 2020,” said Speaker Corey Johnson.

“New York City’s libraries are an integral part of each neighborhood, providing expansive services and programs for New Yorkers who often have few resources. I’m glad to see the Census Office recognize the importance of libraries in our communities and in achieving a full census count in 2020 by allocating them funding from the historic $40 million investment our city is making for Census outreach,” said Councilwoman Carlina Rivera, Co-Chair of the Council’s 2020 Census Task Force.

“Libraries are located in many of the hardest-to-count neighborhoods of New York City, and in some cases are the only places where New Yorkers can access a computer or City services. Given that the census this year is prioritizing online responses, it is essential that we recruit libraries into the overall census outreach effort. With less than a year to go, this funding will prove critical,” said Council Member Carlos Menchaca, Co-Chair of the New York City Council’s 2020 Census Task Force.

“Our public libraries are safe spaces where families visit and receive services of many kinds. I applaud the de Blasio administration for investing in the public libraries and for partnering with the Census 2020. It is vital that communities of color are counted during the current federal government’s political climate. This partnership will give access to technology, support the Census 2020 application, and provide civic engagement tools at a new capacity to all of New York City’s residents.” said Assemblywoman Carmen De La Rosa.

NYC Census 2020’s investment in the libraries builds on a successful partnership model, as libraries have consistently delivered results on critical City initiatives, such as IDNYC. As a founding partner in this initiative, libraries served as key platforms to enroll New Yorkers in IDNYC, which today boasts an enrollment of more than one million New Yorkers.

“With the approach of 2020, we are reminded of the vital role the census plays in our democracy and the importance of being counted once every decade,” said Linda E. Johnson, Brooklyn Public Library President and CEO. “As one of the most trusted and democratic institutions in the borough, Brooklyn Public Library is where every individual can be counted and the information they submit will be confidential and secure. We look forward to partnering with the Mayor and Census Director Menin and thank them for their leadership and support."

“Public libraries are uniquely positioned to help ensure New Yorkers are accurately counted in the upcoming and vitally-important 2020 Census,” said NYPL President Anthony W. Marx. “We are safe, trusted, welcoming centers of civic life, located in every neighborhood and working to make knowledge, opportunity, and technology available to all people, including and especially our most vulnerable neighbors. As the Census is reliant on digital technology this year, our roles in closing the digital divide and welcoming all people regardless of background are more important than ever. NYPL is so proud to partner with the City and do its part to keep our communities strong and make sure all New Yorkers are heard.”  

“The City of New York has long recognized that public libraries are its most trusted, open and democratic institutions,” said Queens Public Library President and CEO Dennis M. Walcott. “A complete count is a matter of equity and inclusion, yet many people feel uncertain and marginalized, especially in our immigrant communities. Serving the most diverse place in the country, with branches in many of the hardest-to-count census tracts, Queens Public Library is ready to make sure everyone is represented no matter who they are or where they come from, and we look forward to working with the City and our community partners to make this happen.”

“We're thrilled to see the City of New York working with libraries across all five boroughs to ensure every New Yorker is counted in Census 2020. Libraries are safe spaces and community hubs for much of immigrant New York, and library involvement in census outreach ensures that trusted community partners will be on the frontlines of the get-out the-count efforts across the city, especially in bridging the digital divide for the first-ever digital census,” said Steven Choi, Executive Director, New York Immigration Coalition. “A fair and accurate count of residents is vital to assuring our fair share of federal funds for the benefit of all New Yorkers.”

“As an organization committed to ensuring African descendant people—historically the most undercounted group in our nation’s census—are fully represented, we applaud the City’s decision to provide resources to its libraries to bolster participation in the 2020 census. Libraries are lifelines in many of our communities, providing knowledge, training and technology to bridge educational gaps and the digital divide. These disbursements will help libraries reach vulnerable families and encourage their participation. Fully funded, comprehensive outreach efforts like this one are the only way to ensure that everyone is counted and that our communities receive their fair share of federal funding and representation,” said Lurie Daniel Favors, Esq., General Counsel and Acting Executive Director, Center for Law and Social Justice at Medgar Evers College.

“CPC applauds the inclusion of census support for libraries across New York City and celebrates the enhanced services provided in historically undercounted communities. Asian-American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) New Yorkers continue to grow in numbers and should be accurately counted in the 2020 Census,” said Wayne Ho, President and CEO of the Chinese-American Planning Council (CPC). “In order to overcome language barriers, close the digital divide, and raise Census awareness and urgency, community-based organizations and libraries must have the resources and continue to be close partners in promoting a full and fair count for all New Yorkers.”

“Today’s announcement demonstrates that the City of New York takes seriously the idea that in order to get all New Yorkers counted in next year’s census, partnerships with trusted local voices will be the answer. Whether it’s through libraries or faith-based institutions, it is crucial that census outreach meets people where they are in their everyday lives. We applaud Mayor de Blasio and NYC Census 2020 Director Menin on their commitment to funding the libraries, and, on behalf of the largest interfaith census coalition in the city, we are proud to partner with them to achieve a complete and accurate count,” said Jennifer Jones Austin, CEO and Executive Director of FPWA.

“We’re at serious risk of a 2020 undercount due to the late start in funding outreach efforts, the prolonged effort to include a citizenship question, and apprehension around online submissions,” said Katie Leonberger, President and Chief Executive Officer of Community Resource Exchange. “By investing City Census resources in outreach and technology that touches all neighborhoods - where nonprofits and our City's libraries are trusted resources - New Yorkers everywhere will be better off and our City—and State—will be a stronger place in which to work, live, and thrive.”

“ABNY applauds the Mayor and NYC Census 2020 for providing funding to the New York Public Library system to help our City earn a strong count,” said Steven Rubenstein Chairman at the Association for a Better New York (ABNY). “Libraries are trusted cornerstones of our communities. Equipping our local branches with the technology, training and other resources is the right anchor to help New Yorkers feel comfortable in completing their census form so we can achieve an accurate count.” 

“Free and open to all, our public libraries are the most welcoming and trusted institutions in the city. We are thrilled that the libraries will receive the support they need to serve as centers of outreach, information, and support to ensure that every New Yorker gets counted in the census,” said Julie Sandorf, President, Charles H. Revson Foundation.

“The city’s three library systems form the backbone of many communities across the five boroughs, and we commend the Mayor and Director Menin for making this smart investment to help ensure that all New Yorkers are counted in next year’s census. We know that trusted voices on the ground — like neighborhood libraries — are going to make a difference. The New York Community Trust and supporters of the New York State Census Equity Fund are proud to partner with the City to ensure that our local investments will augment and align with their efforts,” said Patricia A. Swann, Senior Program Officer, New York Community Trust.

“We are excited to see that the City of New York is engaging closely with communities in its efforts to pursue a fair and accurate 2020 Census. When communities are undercounted, they are left out of proportional political representation and vital federal funds. Initiatives such as this are a critical step in combating inequality by making sure every New Yorker has a chance to be counted,” said Maria Torres-Springer, Vice President, US Programs, Ford Foundation.

“Our public libraries are a vital resource for immigrant and low-income communities. For many New Yorkers, libraries are hubs of learning and for accessing crucial resources like technology, broadband, and support networks. We applaud NYC Census 2020 for resourcing libraries so that they can play an important role in ensuring a fair count in the 2020 census. Make the Road New York's Census Outreach Initiative will work alongside City government and our libraries to ensure a complete count of our communities. Together, we will send the message that low-income and immigrant New Yorkers are Here to Stay and must be counted,” said Javier H. Valdés, Co-Executive Director of Make the Road New York.

“As we approach the first ever digital census, we are happy to see the City of New York investing in safe and secure internet access through our community libraries, which are a cornerstone of many immigrant communities,” said Jo-Ann Yoo, Executive Director of the Asian American Federation. With over 55,000 Asian-American households lacking internet access, we look forward to working with the library systems to ensure that our communities are aware of all the options available to participating in the upcoming census.”

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