Buffalo, NY—Mayor Byron W. Brown and County Executive Mark Poloncarz were joined by community leaders, representatives from the Buffalo and Erie County Library System, and members of the Erie County Complete Count Committee to urge residents to complete their census questionnaires, cooperate with Census Bureau enumerators, and spread the word about the importance of participating in this year’s census.
Mayor Brown said, “As many of us have heard, the Census is incredibly important in determining how much aid we receive from the federal government, the level of representation we have, and how we plan for the future make-up of our City. Because of its importance, I want to urge everyone to complete their census questionnaire, cooperate with Census enumerators when they come to your door, and tell your neighbors and friends to participate if they already haven’t. All of the information you provide to the Census Bureau is confidential and protected. And while I understand that many of you may fear what the government will do with your information, I promise that anything you tell the Census Bureau regarding residency, criminal background, or employment will not be shared with any other government agency.”
The City of Buffalo’s census participation rate for individuals who have completed the questionnaire currently stands at almost 53%. This means that only a little over half the expected households have completed their questionnaires online, over the phone or through the mail. The official census count is not based on estimates or statistical sampling and therefore, every household must complete their actual questionnaire to be officially counted.
County Executive Mark Poloncarz said, “Time is running out to respond to the 2020 census, a critical way to ensure that Buffalo and Erie County get the federal funding we deserve. While the White House is pulling the plug on the census early this year in the hopes that some populations will go undercounted, we know the importance of a full and accurate count and what it means to us here in Western New York. It means funding to rebuild our roads and bridges, revitalize our communities, and help us build a better tomorrow for the next generation. It’s safe and simple to take part, so don’t wait any longer: make your voice heard and be counted today!”
While Erie County’s participation rate is much higher than the City of Buffalo’s, the lack of response in the City and some rural parts of the County will also have a negative impact on funding levels and other critical priorities for the County. Other counties throughout the state are struggling with getting an accurate count of their populations as a result of the social distancing measures undertaken to arrest the spread of the COVID-19 virus, as well as misinformation campaigns about census data collection and attempts by the current federal administration to politicize the questionnaire.
Over a year ago, the City of Buffalo and Erie County, along with partners in the non-profit sector, the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library system, and other community and religious leaders joined to form a Complete Count Committee. Through this committee’s efforts, approximately half a million dollars has been secured through grant funding to support a media and grassroots census participation campaign. This week, a number of radio, print and digital ads will appear encouraging everyone to “be counted and make their voice heard,” by participating in the census.
Cara Matteliano, of the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo and co-chair of the Complete Count Committee said, “It is critical that every person in our community is counted in the 2020 Census. Many people have been disproportionately underrepresented in the census for decades, including young children, individuals living in low income and rural communities, immigrants and renters. The 2020 Census determines funding our community receives for the next 10 years so we must not waste this opportunity for federal support moving forward. Every person counts and time is running out.”
The Buffalo and Erie County Libraries have been running a special census participation campaign, which was temporarily halted while social distancing measures where enacted during the Spring. Now that libraries are open, residents can go to any branch and complete their census questionnaire online. Staff are available to assist if a person needs additional support.
Mary Jean Jakubowski, Director of the Buffalo and Erie County Library System, said, “Getting counted in the 2020 Census is critical for our community and we encourage everyone to Get Counted @ Your Library! Public access computers are free, offer high-speed Internet access and our staff is here to help! All 37 libraries are open and hours of operation can be found at: www.BuffaloLib.org.”
Everyone can help spread the word about the importance of completing the census and the safety of people’s information by following the hashtag #BuffaloHEARD or requesting a census lawn sign by calling contacting the Belle Community Center or Delevan Grider Community Center. To complete the census online, go to Census2020.gov. If you need to complete the questionnaire over the phone, call 844-330-2020.