2020 census already on the mind of Jersey City’s mayor

BY Briana Vannozzi, Senior Correspondent |

There’s a lot at stake in the upcoming census count. The population numbers produced by the survey are used for everything from drawing political districts to distributing government money. Those involved say the Trump administration’s proposal to include a citizenship question in the 2020 count poses a real threat to its accuracy

“We’re not involved in that decision making of course, so we’re moving forward assuming it’s on the 2020 questionnaire. Our job doesn’t change though. On the current surveys we conduct, there is a large distrust in government and we see that everyday as we go out there knocking on doors collecting important information for other federal agencies,” said Jeff Behler, regional director of the U.S. Census Bureau.

Jersey City is widely considered the most diverse city in the state making it all the harder to count. As a head start, a U.S. Census Bureau office will open in Jersey City by mid-2019. Mayor Steve Fulop is one of dozens signing a U.S. Conference of Mayors letter against the citizenship question with concern about a repeat from 2010 where he says the town lost out on millions of dollars.

“In 2010, Jersey City, and Hudson County in particular, had one of the largest under-counts in the entire country. And it’s significant because it impacts us in a lot of different ways. It impacts us in our schools, in impacts us with our police, it impacts us with fire, it impacts us with our congressional districts,” Fulop said.

“It is estimated that the state of New Jersey receives over $18 billion of funding every year for largest 16 programs based upon census data so we need to get it right,” Behler said.

But that’ll be tough without community buy in, so the city will hold six town hall meetings, set up kiosks with community leaders to explain how the survey works — what the census is and what it’s not.

“We don’t ask for social security numbers. We don’t ask for bank account information. We never ask for money. We cannot, I can’t reiterate enough, Title 13 protects everyone’s data. We cannot share it with any other agency or with any other private organization,” Behler said.

That might be the biggest takeaway. Contrary to popular belief the census can’t share your information. The agency is also looking to hire managers and clerical workers to run the future offices and they’ll pay $22 an hour. Fulop says the title as the state’s largest city is on the line. Newark still holds that place. In 2010 the survey put Jersey City’s population just over 247,000. Today, Fulop estimates it’ll be closer to 305,000.

Fulop says the community engagement portion will begin immediately with a town hall scheduled in Greenville Thursday night. The census is already recruiting workers and the count slated to begin April 1.”