NYC Census 2020 Launches First-Of-Its-Kind Census Outreach Initiative to Reach Immigrant and other Language-Based Communities via Popular Mobile Messenger Apps

NYC Census 2020 and trusted community organizations will drive census participation by creating new conversation hubs that connect to New Yorkers in their preferred languages and via the apps they use to stay connected during shelter-in-place

NEW YORK - NYC Census 2020 (Mayor's Office of the Census) has announced that it is embarking on an extensive and innovative digital organizing campaign via WhatsApp, WeChat, KakaoTalk, and Viber ("WhatsApp+"), to reach immigrant communities across New York City in 15 languages. This type of linguistic and culturally competent outreach and communication is particularly important at a time when in-person organizing efforts have been significantly hampered as a result of the spread of COVID-19.

Each of the WhatsApp+ language groups will be administered either by NYC Census 2020, or a NYC Census 2020 Citywide Partner, or a NYC Census 2020 Complete Count Fund awardee, and will serve as a forum in which trusted community leaders will share vital information about the census, emphasizing that it is safe, easy, and important. Each group will recruit volunteers to organically share content with other WhatsApp+ groups and users, resulting in a hub for sharable and impactful content about the importance of census participation.

"The Census is the only way we get the money and power that are rightfully ours. If we don't know how many of us there are, or where we are, the government cannot plan to provide us with healthcare, transportation, education, and more," said Julie Menin, Director of NYC Census 2020. "It is also important that our communities are represented in government so that our voices can be heard and our needs can be met. That's why every member of our community should fill out the census immediately. If we don't complete the census, we become invisible."

"In a city with more than 200 languages spoken, and where over one million New Yorkers have limited English proficiency, it's vital that immigrant residents receive information about the census from trusted community members in their preferred languages," said Bitta Mostofi, Commissioner of the New York City Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs. "This pandemic has illustrated just how crucial a complete count is for our immigrant communities' health and futures. Messaging applications like WhatsApp have also been critical tools for communicating COVID-19 updates and city resources available to all New Yorkers throughout this crisis. Our agency is proud to work alongside NYC Census 2020 to ensure our neighbors know how the census affects our lives, and that everyone, regardless of immigration status, can complete it without any fear of a citizenship question or their information being used against them in any way."

"Now community organizations will have another tool for educating our community members about the importance of census participation in their preferred language and in an accessible format," said Marco A. Carrión, Commissioner of New York City's Community Affairs Unit. "This type of organizing will help us achieve a complete count in the census, ensuring that our communities receive their fair share of federal funding for essential services for the next ten years, which will be critical to our city's recovery after COVID-19. Every New Yorker should fill out the census today."

"The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to adjust outreach initiatives and use all technological tools available to reach as many New Yorkers as possible. Our efforts will be especially critical going forward since our City's self-response rate lags behind the national rate. Recently, as part of our efforts to count every New Yorker, 30 Council Members participated in a text-a-thon campaign, in partnership with the Mayor's NYC Census 2020 office, and 24 participated in a Digital Action Weekend, in partnership with the U.S. Census Bureau. An accurate count will ensure that the City receives the millions of dollars we urgently need and that are currently at stake should there be an undercount. More than ever, an accurate count is crucial for our ability as a City to weather this unprecedented crisis and its aftermath," said Council Speaker Corey Johnson.

"These digital town squares will help us achieve a complete count while we socially distance to save lives. We always knew it would take neighbors talking to neighbors to succeed in this endeavor. And with 15 such conversations taking place in 15 different languages, we are ensuring our immigrant neighbors are included. Together, we will beat this pandemic and secure the funding and Congressional power we deserve," said City Council Member Carlos Menchaca, Co-Chair of the City Council's 2020 Census Task Force.

"I think it is extremely important that we reach out to communities in their native language so that everyone participates in the Census. A complete count is necessary for our communities to receive resources based on our true population and needs," said State Senator Roxanne J. Persaud.

Several community partners who serve as moderators of the groups include Adhikaar, African Communities Together, Apna Brooklyn Community Center, Arab American Association of New York, Boro Park Jewish Community Council, Chinese-American Planning Council, Hispanic Federation, Kings Bay Y, Minkwon, New York Immigration Coalition, South Asian Council for Social Services, and United Sikhs. Other language groups are moderated by NYC Census 2020 staff, sister agencies, or volunteers with specific language and community expertise.

In light of COVID-19, NYC Census 2020 quickly changed its census outreach to reach New Yorkers remotely by diversifying away from subway advertisements and shifting more resources to TV, foreign language radio and digital advertising and embarking on city-wide peer to peer text-a-thons and phone bankings. These efforts have a special focus on neighborhoods with lower census self-response rates. For example, Queens Complete Count Committee members specifically focused on northwest Queens (North Corona, East Elmhurst), south Queens (Richmond Hill, South Ozone Park), and southeast Queens (South Jamaica, Springfield Gardens), as well as Far Rockaway in NYC Census 2020's latest Text Out the Count.

The census determines whether New York City receives its fair share of hundreds of billions distributed by the federal government every year for important programs and services. The census also leads to direct investments in New York City's health care system. For example, census data determines allocations for funding for CHIP and hospitals. What's more, it's how public health officials get the foundational data that public health experts use to plan for and manage situations like COVID-19.

The more New Yorkers who fill out the census, the more money the city receives for schools, hospitals, transportation, job training, and so much more. The census also determines each state's fair share of representation in Congress, as well as how local, state, and federal legislative district lines are drawn, meaning the power of New York City's voice in Washington, D.C., and Albany is also based on the census.

Important Facts about the 2020 Census

  • The census is available online and by phone this year: and 1-844-330-2020.
  • New Yorkers can complete the census form online in 12 languages in addition to English, and each of these languages have their own dedicated, unique phone number that speakers of these languages can call to receive direct assistance. In addition, the U.S. Census Bureau has published "explainer" guides in a total of 59 languages. For more information, please visit
  • New Yorkers can also fill out the 2020 Census in 15 different language lines:
    • English
    • Spanish
    • Mandarin
    • Cantonese
    • Vietnamese
    • Korean
    • Russian
    • Arabic
    • Tagalog
    • Polish
    • French
    • Haitian Creole
    • Portuguese
    • Japanese
    • Telephone Display Device (TDD)

About NYC Census 2020

NYC Census 2020 is a first-of-its-kind organizing initiative established by Mayor de Blasio in January 2019 to ensure a complete and accurate count of all New Yorkers in the 2020 Census. The $40 million program is built on four pillars: (1) a $19 million community-based awards program, The New York City Complete Count Fund, empowering 157 community-based organizations to engage historically undercounted communities around the 2020 Census; (2) an in-house "Get Out the Count" field campaign supported by the smart use of cutting-edge data and organizing technology, and a volunteer organizing program to promote a complete count in each of the city's 245 neighborhoods; (3) an innovative, multilingual, tailored messaging and marketing campaign, including a $3 million commitment to investing in community and ethnic media to reach every New York City community; as well as (4) an in-depth Agency and Partnerships engagement plan that seeks to leverage the power of the City's 350,000-strong workforce and the city's major institutions, including libraries, hospitals, faith-based communities, cultural institutions, higher educational institutions, and more, to communicate with New Yorkers about the critical importance of census participation. Through close partnerships with trusted leaders and organizations across the five boroughs, this unprecedented campaign represents the largest municipal investment in census organizing nationwide and will build an enduring structure that empowers New Yorkers to remain civically engaged.