CAMDEN, NJ — Water ice giveaways. Outdoor pop-up tables. And cameos at coronavirus test sites, outdoor markets and city gatherings. Camden has been hard at work to make sure everyone is counted in the 2020 Census.

With two weeks to go until the closing date, the city has a self-response rate of 47.9% (New Jersey's is 68.2%).

“We are currently working with enumerators to reach some of our hard-to-count locations like housing complexes, which can be difficult to access because of COVID policies. It’s unfair we’re at 40%, considering the importance of this count, but we will continue to work diligently” Mayor Frank Moran told TAPinto Camden on Wednesday, noting that his office has helped post billboards, get the word out on social media and promote census participation on the radio. 

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“It’s a matter of life and death for us, as there is federal money we depend on and anticipate for our community,” he said.

As much as $675 billion in annually allocated funds hinges on an accurate count across the United States. Those funds touch on all sectors of public life including health, education, transportation improvements, road infrastructure, hospitals, businesses and more.

Camden already has an uphill battle when it comes to the census, with various “hard to count” populations such as undocumented people, the homeless population and children under five.

This year in addition to the coronavirus pandemic, local leaders helping to advocate for the census — like Camden County Freeholder Carmen Rodriguez — have dealt with the added barrier of a shortened timetable. In August, the U.S. Census Bureau also said it would stop counting efforts Sept. 30 (a month prior than initially set). 

“First and foremost, the right thing to do is extend it,” said Moran. “One of the other challenges we’re facing is people are reluctant to fill it out because of rhetoric out of Washington D.C.”

In July, Moran referred to a memorandum by President Donald Trump to ostensibly discount the undocumented as “absolutely insane.”

“I’m saddened [about where we are] but I also understand. With COVID, Camden city and other urban areas around the state are in the same situation as far as being undercounted,” Moran said.

The mayor said many in the dense city — hit the hardest by the coronavirus out of any municipality in Camden County with over 2,700 cases — often refuse to open the door to strangers.

He said the solution to that is quelling resident’s fears about the process, which can be completed in minutes online, over the phone or via mail

The US Census Bureau assures visitors to its site that it will never ask for a person’s Social Security number, money, donations, anything on behalf of a political party or their bank or credit card number.

Moreover, census files remain sealed for 72 years following the count.

Among the inquiries are the number of people living or staying in your home, whether your home is owned or rented, the sex, age and race of each person in your home, whether the person in your home is Hispanic, Latino or of Spanish origin, and the relationship of each person in your home.

Moran said those who have already filled out the census in Camden can do more on their part by reaching out to family and neighbors in order to speak to how easy the process is.

“It’s absolutely safe, the information is not shared with anyone,” Moran said. “This is a 10-year sentence you impose on yourself and your city, and it’s important to take care of it right away.”

To check for updates on future city events related to the census click here.

Winslow non-profit Dreams of Tomorrow (DOT) will host an outdoor movie night/Census participation drive Friday from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Organizers will screen “Jumanji: The Next Level,” provide snacks and help attendees fill out the census and register to vote.

“We are running out of time, but it is not too late to respond to the Census,” said Rodriguez, who is also liaison to the Department of Health and Human Services. “You can complete the Census for your household in less time than it takes to watch the opening trailers at a movie theater. It is fast, its safe, and it’s extremely easy.”

The event will be held at the Winslow Center (510 Williamstown Road) in Winslow Township. Attendees, who must wear a face mask and social distance, are encouraged to bring a chair.

To fill out the census visit www.2020census.gov. You can also call (844-330-2020 English; 844-468-2020 Spanish), or fill out the survey via mail. 

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