by Char Weigel –
The first mailing of Census 2020 may not reach households until mid-March, but the villages of Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown are already at work to ensure a successful and complete count. The Sleepy Hollow-Tarrytown Census 2020 Committee is comprised of both village governments, the Public Schools of the Tarrytowns, Warner Library, the Tarrytown-Sleepy Hollow Chamber of Commerce, the police departments and other community and non-profit representatives. “Our goal,” said Committee member and Tarrytown Trustee Rebecca McGovern, “is that every resident of both villages is counted and that everyone understands why the census is important to their lives.”
Despite considerable outreach and communication during the 2010 census, several neighborhoods in Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown were among the most undercounted in New York State. The cost of a similar undercounting in 2020 would be high. Each uncounted person results in a loss of $2,500 in government funding per year. That means money from taxes paid by village residents will be sent to other parts of the state rather than supporting local roads, village programs and other services. In addition, for every uncounted person, residents of both villages will lose representation in Albany and Washington, giving greater voice to other areas of the state. The Committee is working to avoid these losses by counting every resident.
The census is short, only nine questions (see the questions at https://2020census.gov/en/about-questions.html), but there are many hurdles to a complete count. One barrier is confusion about who needs to be counted. The Constitution and the 14th Amendment require every resident, regardless of age or citizenship status, to be counted every 10 years. Students at the EF School? Yes. Residents of group homes and nursing homes? Yes. Non-family members in the same dwelling? A baby born on the day the household fills out the census? Residents who are not citizens? Yes to all and many more, including just about anyone living in Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown.
The Committee is reaching out to businesses and community organizations with presentations, flyers and posters to raise awareness, and is launching a local social media campaign. The Public Schools of the Tarrytowns (TUFSD) is a key partner – incorporating census education into the curriculum, sending flyers home in backpacks, and educating families through email blasts. Soon, banners will be posted at prominent locations around the villages in English and in Spanish. The goal is that the census is top of mind to everyone.
The new online platform is a plus for some but a barrier for others. The Committee is working with Warner Library, places of worship, businesses, health organizations, the Community Food Pantry and many more organizations to raise awareness and provide laptop support for online submission. There are also options to file by phone (with translation services) and on a paper form mailed to residents who have not responded by mid-April.
Confidentiality is a concern for some. Diana Loja, Committee member and Village of Sleepy Hollow Community Liaison, said, “The census is confidential and cannot be released to anyone or shared with law enforcement or other government entities. By law, responses will only be used for statistical purposes.” She wants everyone to know they can safely respond. The Committee is recruiting familiar faces in undercounted neighborhoods as volunteers to walk with Census enumerators during in-person visits to reduce confusion and anxiety.
The Committee has already heard concerns about scams and identity theft, and reports of some misleading political mailings that appear to be part of Census 2020. The census will send the invitations to households only through the U.S. mail, not by email or phone. Households that have not responded will receive an in-person visit between May and July. All census communications will include the Census 2020 logo, and anyone affiliated with the census will carry Census 2020 identification. It is possible that a Census employee may call you to clarify your response, but only after you have submitted your completed Census. Police Chiefs John Barbelet of Tarrytown and Anthony Bueti of Sleepy Hollow urge residents to report any suspicious outreach in the name of the census to the police departments.
McGovern emphasized, “We all win if we all count. So fill out your census or reach out for help if you need it. Everyone counts!” Visit www.2020census.gov or email firstname.lastname@example.org with questions.