On the Front Lines of the COVID-19 Response: NYC Census 2020 Helps More Than 1,000 Households Complete the Census at Food Distribution Sites

NYC Census 2020 crosses threshold of now reaching more than 1.5 million unique New Yorkers via texting and phone calls

Campaign also partnered with the City's Test & Trace Corps for Citywide Day of Action for COVID testing

NEW YORK -- NYC Census 2020 ("NYC Census") has now provided direct, on-the-ground, one-on-one assistance with completing the 2020 Census to 1,037 New York City households at 36 food distribution sites across the five boroughs in multiple languages. The provision of this type of in-person assistance, which will remain ongoing through the remainder of the census campaign period, represents the City's deep commitment to ensuring all New Yorkers are counted in this foundational exercise, even in the midst of an unprecedented global pandemic.

The layered health, political, and economic crises that New York City is currently experiencing have further exposed the severe racial and ethnic disparities both in terms of health outcomes and economic need, and NYC Census has accordingly focused its census completion efforts in neighborhoods hardest hit by the three crises. These include, for example, Williamsbridge in The Bronx (45.5% self-response rate), North Corona in Queens (38.2% self-response rate), and Borough Park in Brooklyn (41.4% self-response rate), among several others. The current citywide average self-response rate is 53.1%.

In the largest effort to date, NYC Census partnered with one of its Complete Count Fund awardees, Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens ("Catholic Charities"), to assist more than 160 families with completing the census at Our Lady of Sorrows in North Corona, Queens. Catholic Charities offered a $10 gift card to every household that completed the census, helping maximize the impact of the event in a very heavily Central and South American immigrant area that also has the city's lowest self-response rate. The households counted represent many hundreds of New Yorkers, as per Census Bureau and community-reported figures, Corona has the highest rate of overcrowding in the city.

NYC Census staff have taken all possible measures to interact with New Yorkers safely, including wearing masks and gloves (and face shields, when needed), and ensuring that no devices are passed between individuals.

"New York City needs a full census count now more than ever, and safely-conducted in-person interactions are vital to secure that count. 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. "That's why every member of our community should fill out the census immediately. If we don't complete the census, we will lose the resources our communities will depend on as they rebuild from COVID-19."

"Hearing first-hand from New Yorkers trapped behind significant social, economic, language, and political barriers that they are living five, eight, or 10 to tiny apartments in the neighborhood hardest-hit by COVID underscores just how critical it is for Queens to be fully counted in the census, which is the one exercise that will determine how many millions we're going to get from the federal government for both housing and healthcare over the next 10 years," said Amit Singh Bagga, Deputy Director, NYC Census 2020. "Without a complete and accurate count, we will be forgoing to the money, power, and respect that we are rightfully owed, and now more than ever is a time when such a loss can be ill afforded."

"New Yorkers have always faced the challenges of affordable housing and food insecurity. In the wake of the COVID pandemic, these loom as a matter of life and death with the impact of millions of jobs lost exacerbating the conditions under which we live that have produced underlying health conditions leaving us vulnerable to the Coronavirus," said Kathleen Daniel, Field Director, NYC Census 2020. "We are deeply grateful to Catholic Charities of Brooklyn and Queens and all of our partners in this critical work of ensuring a complete count for New York City, who have tirelessly committed and continued to serve and support this City on the road to recovery."

"Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens is proud to partner with the NYC Census 2020 as a Complete Count Fund awardee. For over 120 years, Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens has worked to serve the most vulnerable in our community, and this partnership has helped us continue that good work by making sure the historically undercounted are represented properly and that they have access to the resources they deserve," said Richard Slizeski, Senior Vice President for Mission, Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens. "Providing our neighbors in need the opportunity to learn more about and self-respond to the 2020 Census at our emergency pop-up food distributions offered an undercounted community to receive much-needed food packages and additional services."

NYC Census 2020 has also worked with its partners to conduct "text banking" and phone banking at scale. As of July 1, the campaign has called 894,694 New Yorkers using its "Virtual Phone Bank" tool and has directly reached 163,904 individuals who have been encouraged to complete the census. And as of July 1, the campaign has sent 5,874,209 text messages through the peer-to-peer texting service Hustle, reaching 1,488,667 different New Yorkers.

This week, NYC Census also partnered with the City's new Test + Trace Corps in all five boroughs for its "T2" Day of Action. More than 100 volunteers spoke to thousands of New Yorkers about free tests at various Health + Hospitals locations, the importance of working with tracers to stem the spread of COVID-19, and the importance of completing the census to help NYC rebuild from COVID-19 over the next decade. The locations of these actions were Fordham in The Bronx, Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn, East Harlem in Manhattan, Elmhurst and Jackson Heights in Queens, and Clifton in Staten Island.

Outreach  with partner State Senator Jessica Ramos
Outreach with partner State Senator Jessica Ramos
Outreach at Catholic Charities to  assist more than 160 families with completing the census at Our Lady of Sorrows  in North Corona, Queens
Outreach at Catholic Charities to assist more than 160 families with completing the census at Our Lady of Sorrows in North Corona, Queens
T2 'Day of Action'
T2 'Day of Action'

Partners for the food distribution outreach include Assemblymember Catalina Cruz, Assemblymember Latoya Joyner, Assemblymember Diana Richardson, Senator Andrew Gounardes, Senator Zellnor Myrie, Senator Jessica Ramos, Alianza Ecuatoriana Internacional, Arab American Association of New York, Boro Park JCC, Catholic Charities, Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association of New York, City of Faith Church of God, Health Essential Association, International Rescue Committee, Kingdom Life Ministries, Masbia, River Fund, Salem United Methodist Church, Salvation Army, Shiloh Temple Pentecostal Church, Tai Look Merchants Association, United Chinese Association of Brooklyn, World Central Kitchen, and Yemeni American Merchants Association. Additionally, Complete Count Fund Awardees like Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation are organizing similar efforts to reach New Yorkers, including census information with all Campaign against Hunger deliveries.

The full list of neighborhoods served includes:

  • The Bronx:
    • Highbridge, Wakefield, Williamsbridge
  • Brooklyn:
    • Bay Ridge, Bath Beach, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Borough Park, Crown Heights, Gowanus, Prospect-Lefferts Garden, Sheepshead Bay, Sunset Park
  • Manhattan:
    • Chinatown, East Harlem, Harlem
  • Queens:
    • East Elmhurst, Corona, North Corona, Richmond Hill, South Ozone Park

New York City has made significant strides in census self-response rates, closing the gap with the rest of the nation. Today, New York City stands just 9 percentage points behind the national total -- an improvement of 5 percentage points from 2010.

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.