Local Leaders and Advocates Hold 2020 Census Kick Off

Boston Mayor Martin Walsh joined a group of local non-profit leaders, including Chelsea Collaborative Director Gladys Vega, and advocates at the East Boston Library to kickoff year-long outreach campaign to ensure a fair and complete count in the 2020 U.S. Census.

The event drew leaders and advocates from across Greater Boston and local leaders like Vega and Chelsea City Manager Tom Ambrosino were on hand to support not only Boston’s efforts but to show there’s a strong partnership with community’s that surround Boston.

The census will be issued exactly one year from the past Monday, starting the decennial count that determines everything from representation in Congress, to federal funds for schools, affordable housing, infrastructure and health care programs.

“To all the partners in the room we can’t do this without you,” said Walsh Monday. “It’s so important to be counted. We need to make sure we are all counted because it determines our representation in Congress and I can’t underscore that enough. We need accurate census counts to protect our voices in Congress. Right now the investments that were made from the 2010 census were free lunches at public schools, funds for affordable housing, senior services, job training for our residents for the future. If we don’t do the count accurately we won’t get what is due to us in the Commonwealth.”

Walsh pointed out that for every person not counted in the upcoming census equals $2,400 in lost federal money every year for the next ten years.

“Think of it? If 100,000 people are not counted that translates into 2.4 billion the state loses in federal aid over the next decade,” said Walsh.

Monday’s kickoff also highlighted a range of collaborations across Greater Boston focused on ensuring that all residents are aware of the upcoming census, know why it’s important, and are prepared to participate. Next year’s Census faces unprecedented challenges, including significant underfunding of the U.S. Census Bureau, the nearly all-digital nature of the surveys, and the possible inclusion of a citizenship question.

Vega said the 2020 Census marks her third decade working on getting more and more people counted.

However, with the current political environment and attacks on undocumented immigrants in the national media, Vega argues that the 2020 Census is going to be a lot harder when compared to year’s past.

“When I see friends and neighbors not reporting domestic violence or not calling the Chelsea Police Department because they are afraid that if they give their name that information is going to be shared,” said Vega. “Imagine asking these people to put their name on an application or document for the Federal Government that they do not trust. The fear of this census is huge. In 2010 we had a some challenges getting people counted because they argued that if immigration reform is not happening why would put their name on a federal document. So imagine now (how hard it’s going to be) with the environment of hate and fear going on. For three decades now our people have been undercounted. We are a small city in the state that does not get the best resources because we are undercounted. We got to pour as many resources as we can into this and talk to our neighbors about how important this is. We don’t have the luxury to lose a Congressional District. We were very close once and we can not let that happen again. So please I urge you to take this very serious.”

At the kickoff other speakers agreed with Vega and commented there are multiple hard-to-count populations that reside in Massachusetts that historically have made a complete census count difficult. This is due in part to the state’s population of recent immigrants, renters, college students, and other hard-to-count populations. Boston is the ninth hardest-to-count city among the largest 100 cities nationwide, according to a recent report  by Boston Indicators and the Boston Foundation.

Chair of the Massachusetts Census Equity Fund Alexie Torres said trusted messengers will play a particularly important role in compelling individuals from hard-to-count communities to participate in the 2020 Census.

“The Massachusetts Census Equity Fund just announced the first half a million dollars in grants to over 40 organizations across the state, all to ensure that fear doesn’t drive us into darkness,” said Alexie Torres. “Darkness can only be cast out when we stand in the light. We must come together and support trusted messengers to highlight what’s at stake for the 2020 census.”

For more information on the City’s outreach efforts to ensure a fair and complete count, please visit boston.gov/2020-census.

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