Local, state leaders launch Fairfield branch of 2020 census committee
FAIRFIELD — With the approach of the 2020 United States census that will count over 3.5 million people across Connecticut, state and local leaders gathered on Tuesday to launch Fairfield’s branch of the state’s census organization, the Complete Count Committee.
At a press conference held at Fairfield Main Library, Lt. Governor Susan Bysiewicz was joined by First Selectman Mike Tetreau, Fairfield Chamber of Commerce vice chairman Kevin Brady; U.S. Census Bureau official Keith Goralski; State Sen. Tony Hwang and State Rep. Cristin McCarthy Vahey.
This was the 23rd stop for Lt. Governor Susan Bysiewicz, who is taking a tour across the state to establish local Complete Count Committees. The state government has partnered with organizations including chambers of commerce, faith-based organizations, health centers, labor organizations, the NAACP, the League of Women Voters, the Council of Small Towns and the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities to promote census participation and ensure accurate counting.
The greatest significance of the 2020 census lies in funding, Bysiewicz said. The decennial count determines how much money local communities are allocated; it is expected that more than $11 billion of federal funding will enter Connecticut as a result of the census, and for each person that is undercounted, the state loses $2,200. Federal programs funded through this count include Head Start, school lunch programs, Medicaid, SNAP, energy assistance programs, road and highway projects and community development grants.
“It’s very key for our state, particularly as we are struggling for resources at the state level and local level, that we undertake and ensure an accurate count,” Bysiewicz explained.
In order to achieve this accurate census, the Complete Count Committee is working to combat a number of challenges. As they head into the first census in history that will include an online option, leaders are concerned about how families without access to the internet will cope. As a solution, they are partnering with libraries to provide space and equipment for all people to access the digital census.
Other challenges include the fact that 22 percent of the state is made up of hard-to-count areas, in which people frequently move in and out, as well as the current national controversy over a citizenship question. Despite last week’s Supreme Court ruling against it, the Trump administration is still working to add a question about U.S. citizenship to the 2020 census.
State and local officials are hoping to get the message out that the census is completely private and its data is used for statistical purposes only. Goralski, a media specialist for the U.S. Census Bureau, explained that Title XIII federal law protects all the data collected.
“We cannot release any information that identifies an individual or a household, period,” Goralski emphasized. “It doesn’t matter what federal, state or local agencies are interested ... So be assured, the census is safe.”
Because of these privacy standards, Bysiewicz explained, the thousands of undocumented people living in Connecticut should not be afraid to complete the census, even if the citizenship question is added. “We want to make sure people understand that, regardless of what happens with that question, it is important for people to come forward and be counted and not fear that there are any kinds of law enforcement consequences associated with it,” she said.
As they gear up for the release of the census in March, the US Census Bureau is recruiting local ambassadors as well as advertising the many jobs for hire in new census offices in Danbury, Hartford and New Haven. Leaders highlighted the importance of local involvement in making this national project a success.
“We get one chance every 10 years to get it right,” Goralski said.