NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – About three in four city households have not responded to the Census questionnaires that were mailed out last month, leaving New Brunswick lagging behind most of the municipalities in the state.
Some 28.6% of New Brunswick households have responded to the questionnaires as of Thursday, according to statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau.
New Brunswick, a city of 55,000 or so residents by last Census count, trails other similar-sized New Jersey cities as Hoboken (53,000 residents, 49.3% response rate), Vineland (60,000 residents, 48.5% response rate), Perth Amboy (52,000 residents, 38.4% response rate) and Plainfield (50,000 residents, 37.1% response rate).
Of 323 New Jersey municipalities listed by the U.S. Census Bureau, New Brunswick ranks 287th.
New Brunswick’s response rate to the nine-question survey also trails the state average, 48.3%, and the national average, 47.1%.
The Census, taken once every 10 years in the United States since 1790, gives the federal government a snapshot of each community. It’s a snapshot of where you lived as of April 1, 2020 – known as Census Day - and includes everyone who usually lives and sleeps in your home.
It goes a long way in determining how much federal aid goes toward everything from senior housing to transportation projects to school funding and more. It also influences how much federal dollars towns get in community development block grants that are used to fund urban renewal projects.
The Census also determines representation in Washington. In fact, New Jersey lost a congressional seat in the 2010 Census, reducing the state from 13 to 12 congressional districts.
Mayor Jim Cahill, speaking on WCTC 1450-AM on Friday, said that the 2010 Census statistics even factored into how much COVID-19 equipment and supplies the city received from the federal stockpile.
Getting a complete Census counting might prove more difficult in New Brunswick than most areas in the state.
Many undocumented residents are unaware that they need to fill out the Census or they may be apprehensive that the information will be forwarded to ICE or Homeland Security.
There’s also the matter of the 40,000 or so students who descend on Rutgers-New Brunswick not only from other parts of New Jersey, but from say, Sheboygan, Wheeling and Woonsocket, not to mention Mombasa, Dundee and Yokohama. According to Rutgers, about 17% of its student body comes from out of state.
It isn’t easy counting them under normal conditions. However, the task is complicated because they were all sent home last month amid the COVID-19 outbreak and are remotely learning for the remainder of the semester.
Cahill said “it’s a dilemma” to get them to realize that they should still declare themselves as New Brunswick residents. He said that Rutgers students who are unsure of how to fill out their Census form should contact Nancy Kranich, a special projects research librarian at the university.
“So, if you were a student who lived in one of our residence halls, in a dormitory, etc., regardless of whether you’re a graduate or undergraduate student, any of the Rutgers apartments that are either in New Brunswick and even including Piscataway, and we have some in North Brunswick as well,” Cahill said. “They should already be counted in the university’s records as having been here. But the students and their families, if you have parents that are filling out the forms for you, make sure they indicate you are a New Brunswick resident.
“For off-campus students that are not living with parents or guardians, if you live in an off-campus apartment, a rental or sublease, you should still fill out a Census form for your off-campus location. One form should be completed per apartment or housing unit. So, if you have a couple of roommates that live with you, one form is the required way to do it. But, you should count all the people who are in your room or your unit. It does require some coordination from you and your roommates. So, if you’re a student please notify – if you’re living back home with your parents – please let your parents know you should be counted with New Brunswick in mind.”
According to the bureau’s website, Census officials will begin working later this month with administrators at colleges, senior centers, prisons and other facilities that house large groups of people to make sure everyone is counted.
The bureau is scheduled to start at the end of May to send Census takers to the homes of those who haven’t responded.
By December, the bureau will deliver apportionment counts to the president and congress as required by law. On March 31, 2121, the bureau will send redistricting counts to the states. This information is used to redraw legislative districts based on population changes.