FLEMINGTON, NJ - Cities, towns and boroughs across the country are pleading with residents to fill out the census form and be counted in 2020.
For the past 230 years, the Census has worked to count every person living in the United States and five U.S. territories.
It is done every 10 years, and the results are used to determine how billions of dollars in federal funding flow into states and communities each year, and also to calculate how many seats in Congress each state gets.
The census process began in mid March, with households receiving official Census Bureau mail with detailed information on how to respond to the 2020 Census online, by phone or by mail.
Then the pandemic hit and it impacted responses, extended deadlines and significantly changed the process.
The federal government’s plan had been to have census takers knock on doors to interview people who haven't responded to the census, starting on May 27. Now, according to Flemington Council President Caitlin Giles-McCormick, census takers won’t begin the home visit process until Aug. 14.
For almost two months, the Flemington governing body has been continually asking residents to fill out the census at every council meeting and briefing its held.
In the past, Flemington has had a low census return rate, which has undercut its population numbers and reduced its portion of federal funds.
So for this census season, a committee had been formed to raise awareness and convince people of the importance of participating. Giles-McCormick and council members Jeremy Long and Jessica Hand were set to spearhead the project.
“We had a comprehensive plan ready to go,” said Long, “before the virus shut everything down.”
Instead of speaking with residents face-to-face at meetings and events and reaching residents through the schools, the committee had to find another route.
One of the steps taken recently was to post two videos on the historic borough website explaining the process and its importance to the community.
One video features Flemington resident Katherine Javier offering information in Spanish, the other is of Long speaking in English with the same message, namely that the census is critical to the community and will determine the funding for new clinics, schools and roads.
“When we participate in the census,” Long says in his video, “we are showing up for our community. We’re raising our hands and saying, ‘we live here.’ So we want everyone to participate, whether you’ve lived here for 50 years or just a few months.”
According to Long, Javier sent a message to him on Facebook asking how she could help.
“I cannot thank her enough,” he said. “She has been invaluable in helping us get the word out to everyone.”
Regardless of when the census is filled out, it should be based on where you lived and who lived with you on April 1.