Updated, 10:22 a.m.: Copy edits
NORWALK, Conn. – Norwalk leaders joined Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz on Monday to promote the 2020 census, and emphasized that citizens should not be afraid to provide their information to the federal government.
“Let’s walk away from this determined to make sure that people understand how important it is to get counted,” U.S. Rep. Jim Himes (D-Greenwich) said.
“It is critically important that Norwalk has an accurate complete count of all the people in our community, because of the dollars that are involved,” Mayor Harry Rilling said. “And with Norwalk being such a diverse community, people might be a little bit reluctant to fill out the form or to cooperate with the form. We need to make sure that we reach out to them.”
Bysiewicz has been touring the state to promote census efforts.
“An accurate census count is critically important to Connecticut as it is the foundation to determine official per capita federal funding for programs in Norwalk and across the state,” a press release from her office said. “Strategic planning will be necessary to ensure that hard-to-count populations are not left out. This includes racial and ethnic minorities, non-English speakers, low income communities, the homeless, undocumented immigrants, and those who do not live in traditional housing, among others.”
“The goal is to make sure we count every person and to do that we need a very strong relationship with community organizations,” Bysiewicz said Monday, pointing out that businesses use census data to evaluate investment opportunities, that federal assistance programs depend on the data and that decisions on highway infrastructure projects and community block grants are also influenced by the census.
“There are so many reasons we need to get the count right,” Bysiewicz said.
“This is very important for people of color. This is I would submit to you that the census counting is a civil rights issue, because there is so much that is determined by the final count,” Rev. Lindsay Curtis, Pastor of Grace Baptist Church, said.
The event was held in the Norwalk Community Health Center for a reason, Himes said, noting that “Medicaid makes this place possible,” and Medicaid is “to some extent dependent on getting that accurate count.”
Bysiewicz has also held events in libraries, as this will be the first census in which people can fill out their forms online.
“In February, Lt. Gov. Bysiewicz launched a statewide effort ensuring Connecticut would be the best-counted state in the nation,” the press release said. “One of the roles of the committee is to assist municipal governments with forming Local Complete Count Committees to promote and encourage response to the 2020 Census in their own communities. The local committees, like Norwalk’s, are comprised of a broad spectrum of government and community leaders from education, business, healthcare, and other community organizations. These trusted voices develop and implement a 2020 Census awareness campaign based upon their knowledge of the local community to encourage a response.”
“With Norwalk being such a diverse community, people might be a little bit reluctant to fill out the form,” Rilling said. “We have to show them that this is to our benefit, to our benefit. We will put together a team that represents the diversity of our community, people that have the confidence of the people with whom they will be speaking. We just want to be sure that we get this done and get this done right. As the Lieutenant Governor mentioned, $2,900 a person, that this will impact our community for federal dollars, for other grant funding that is available, it is critical.”
“We understand the fear mongering that has happened and even voter suppression, the notion that don’t take it because you’re going to be deported. We cannot succumb to that kind of fear mongering,” Curtis said. “I am asking, especially as this roll out happens, all people, be not fearful.”
“By law, census data cannot be shared with ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement), with federal law enforcement or with local law enforcement, with respect to addresses and who is living where,” Himes said. “We need to count all people, it is at the end of the day what allows us to have facilities like this one to make sure that everyone in our community lives a basic standard of living, has access to the education, the health care, the nutrition that they need.”
“Currently, Connecticut is ranked first in the nation for paying the most in federal income taxes and is amongst the lowest in getting federal dollars in return,” the press release said. “Therefore, it is extremely important that Connecticut state government take an active role in facilitating counting efforts by establishing the Connecticut Complete Count Committee.”