Religious leaders from around the city heard about the importance of boosting New York City’s participation in the 2020 Census at the union’s 10th annual Faith-Based Breakfast on Jan. 7.
Billions of dollars in federal funding for New York schools, subways, roads, hospitals and more depend on an accurate count, and the faith-based leaders learned how they can help to increase Census participation in their communities.
“We’re calling on you all to activate your faith community and spread the word about Census 2020,” UFT President Michael Mulgrew told the breakfast attendees at UFT headquarters in Manhattan. “Ten years ago, we didn’t make it a priority and we were the worst-performing city in the entire country.”
New York City had a 61% response rate for the 2010 Census, well below the national average of 74%.
The Rev. Henry A. Belin III from the First AME Church in Harlem, the event’s keynote speaker, emphasized the stakes if New York is once again undercounted.
“How can the nation respond to the needs of poor folk unless the government knows there is a need and where it is?” Belin said. “We’re going to lose what we ought to have in our own communities.”
Mulgrew pointed to fear of the federal government as the primary obstacle to getting everyone counted in this year’s Census. The Trump administration’s persecution of undocumented immigrants has made many in immigrant communities particularly wary of giving information about their families to the government.
Mulgrew emphasized that, by law, the personal information collected by the Census Bureau cannot be shared with any government agency or court. Census Bureau employees are sworn to protect confidentiality for life. He pledged that the UFT would send lawyers to safeguard those legal protections.
“We’re not going to let those who hate us — who hate what we stand for — win,” said Mulgrew. “We count. Every single human being counts.”
New York City Deputy Mayor Phillip Thomas put the issue in historical perspective.
“My family has been here since before the revolution,” said Thomas. “When the constitution was written, they said black people like my ancestors only counted as 3/5 of a person. That’s what they’re trying to do again: they want to undercount certain populations so others at the top can benefit.”
Pastor Joseph Maldonado, from the Lower East Side Fellowship, said he appreciated the UFT’s advocacy on the Census.
“The union took a stand and said they’re in our corner,” said Maldonado. “I like looking back and knowing that somebody’s got my back.”