For months, elected officials in the Bronx held events promoting the census not knowing if the cut off date to fill it out was in September or October.
Many local pols, including Senators Jamaal Bailey and Alessandra Biaggi, expressed their displeasure with the Bronx Times.
“It is extremely hurtful,” Bailey said. “They didn’t even want to abide by the judge’s order to keep it until Oct. 31.”
Bailey was angry that the federal government would do this in the middle of a pandemic. He said that while people were struggling to get by and thought they had another month to fill the census out, the Administration axed it.
“This federal government has been disinterested in trying to count each and every person,” he said. “Unfortunately we’ll have to wait 10 more years to be counted.”
According to Bailey, the NYC census count was at roughly 60 percent. He contributed that low number to lack of knowledge, COVID-19 and the fear of being undocumented.
President Trump initially wanted a citizenship question on the census, but the courts ruled that was not allowed. However, many people were still wary about filling out the census, he said.
“I think a lot of people still live in fear,” Bailey stressed.
Additionally, Bailey noted that during the past seven months, millions of people have quarantined inside and did not want to interact with people due to the pandemic. So when someone was knocking at their door, they may not have answered. The senator said that the census also exposed the digital divide and the amount of people that lack Wi-Fi or computers to fill out the census.
He stressed that outreach for the 2030 census cannot wait until then and instead, must take place throughout the next decade.
“We have to start planning for 2030 now,” he said. “In the best of worlds, a reasonable government looks to leave the October deadline and if needed, extend it.”
Biaggi shared her colleague’s sentiments. After the government kept changing the deadline, she was angry they ultimately decided to end the census early.
The senator said that the government is supposed to be there for the people and their actions showed their lack of care.
“The intention of the federal government was to create confusion,” she said..
Biaggi pointed out that places like Idaho and West Virginia have 99 percent of the population counted and she feels if given more time, NYC could have gotten closer to those numbers.
While she agreed with Bailey that COVID-19 and the fear of being undocumented played a role in less people filling it out, Biaggi placed the blame at the foot of the government.
“When you keep moving the deadline it doesn’t help politicians who are trying to do outreach,” she said.