Rallying census responses

Jersey City falls behind state average census response rate

Deja Anderson, who is managing Jersey City's census efforts, said the city is falling behind the national, state, and county average response rates.
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Deja Anderson, who is managing Jersey City's census efforts, said the city is falling behind the national, state, and county average response rates.

Noting that Jersey City is one of the least-counted census tracts in Hudson County, Mayor Steven Fulop, city council members, and census officials stressed the importance of filling out the census.

“I can’t express the importance, and at the same time the frustration, of the census response and the hope that people become more active in responding because it will shape Jersey City’s future for the next decade,” Fulop said.

Every ten years the United States Census Bureau gathers population data.

This data informs the distribution of billions of dollars in federal funding for schools, infrastructure, healthcare, and first responders. It also determines congressional, state, and local legislative district boundaries.

In Jersey City, the response rate is approximately 50 percent, less than the county’s response rate at 56 percent, and the state average response rate at 62 percent.

Census obstacles

Deja Anderson, who manages the census in Jersey City, said parts of the city are underperforming.

“We are here in census tract number 78; that’s how the Census Bureau breaks down the city,” Anderson said. “This is the worst performing census tract in Jersey City and also in Hudson County. It’s coming in at 33.3 percent.”

According to Anderson, in 2010 this tract had a 62 percent completion rate.

The neighborhood surrounding Holland Gardens Public Housing includes single-family homes, affordable housing, public housing, and newly constructed high-rises.

“It’s very ethnically diverse and reflects Jersey City as a whole,” she said.

She said language barriers, internet access, and immigration status are some of the barriers.

“In the state of New Jersey as a whole, about 12 percent of our population doesn’t have internet access in their homes,” she said, noting that prior to the pandemic, the city had planned drop-in locations at libraries and other neighborhood locations where residents would be given access to technology.

A group of census takers is equipped with tablets to help residents self-respond online.

“It highlights the challenges in more economically challenged communities of getting people to respond and to trust the process which is important for federal funding long term,” Fulop said.

Anderson added that the city is working with community partners to spread awareness, noting that many immigrants may not know about the census or what it is for; no questions regarding immigration status are on the census.

Fulop said Jersey City had one of the largest undercounts in the 2010 Census, which cut needed federal funding, and the state of New Jersey lost a congressional seat.

“There are no do-overs to this,” he said. “If Jersey City is going to get what is deserves in the next 10 years, we need to get the entire population of Jersey City to participate and do what they need to do which is fill out a simple form which takes no longer than five minutes.”

If Jersey City is counted accurately this year, Fulop said he believes the city will surpass Newark as the largest in the state.

Community needs

Fulop and council members spent much of of July 30 knocking on doors at Holland Gardens.

“One of the major needs that we have here is public transit,” said Ward E Councilman James Solomon, who represents tract 78. “We worked with Mayor Fulop and Council President Watterman and the council to get the Via service here, and now we have to get more.”

“You need to be at this table because we need more schools, more hospitals, more programs,” said Council President Joyce Watterman. “We’re here to knock on doors to let you know you are very important in this process and you will shape our future.”

“There’s a quote that says ‘you have not because you asked not’,” she said. “So this morning we are asking that people in this area please register for the census.”

said an accurate count is critical to having accurate congressional representation.

“In the neighborhoods of low income and minority communities, they’ve been on the front lines, so they’ve struggled during this pandemic,” said Councilman-at-Large Rolando Lavarro. “It’s a lot to ask from people to deal with something like filling out this form, but it could be the difference between us having representation in Congress or not.”

“Those with the least, need the census the most,” said Hudson County Freeholder Anthony Romano.

Residents can respond to the 2020 Census by phone, mail or online.

For more information, go to http://www.2020census.gov.

For updates on this and other stories check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Marilyn Baer can be reached at Marilynb@hudsonreporter.com.