PATERSON, NJ - While the once a decade nationwide population count won’t officially begin until April 1, 2020, local efforts to make sure response is better, and more accurate, than in the past are well underway.

And with the Census Bureau hiring up to 18,000 people for temporary jobs across New Jersey including as census takers, recruiting assistants, office clerks, and supervisory staff, Congressman Bill Pascrell and Mayor Andre Sayegh want to make sure Paterson residents are ready to apply for the opportunity.

The reason, Pascrell made clear at a recent event, is simple: Every person must be counted.

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“If you are not going to fight for an accurate count you are not doing your job as an American,” the venerable statesman declared.

At stake is Paterson’s status as a Class 1 city, a designation reserved for communities with a population of more than 150,000 residents, Sayegh has repeated, upping his sense of urgency each time.

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According to the US Census Bureau, Paterson’s population was 146,199 in 2010, a number that was estimated to have increased slightly to 148,678 in 2017. Many officials, including Sayegh, believes that represents a dramatic undercount, with some stakeholders estimating the actual figure reaches well above 170,000.

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In the audience for the program held at Passaic County Community College was Deborah Bravo, a political science student at William Paterson University and a nearly lifelong Paterson resident.

“I want to get more in touch with my community,” Bravo said when asked what she was interested in applying. “I also want to make sure we have the resources we need to get our roads fixed and that undocumented residents know they are safe responding.”

With the Supreme Court considering whether or not to allow a question regarding citizenship on census form Bravo’s final point echoed a potential challenge many have expressed when it comes to getting a full response from Paterson’s large immigrant community.

In an environment where immigrants are already experiencing heightened concern about  bringing any unnecessary attention to themselves or their status, Sayegh’s efforts to encourage full participation extend back to before his election to the city’s top office, and have only increased since, including the launch of the Paterson Complete Count Committee in August and a pep rally with local students to mark the one year point until the count’s official kick off.

It’s those with local connections, or “trusted voices,” United State Census Regional Director Jeff T. Behler told those gathered, that will be most important in getting every resident counted.

“This is a national event conducted at the local level,” he said. Getting neighbors comfortable that the count is “safe, easy, and important,” he concluded, “has to be done by residents in the community.”

With another round of hiring set to begin in the coming weeks Behler encouraged the crowd to join him at one of PCCC’s computer labs across the street to apply on the spot, and, referring to it as a “great second job” that accommodates different work schedules, announced that job seekers can also apply online.

“We all count,” Sayegh said to bring the event to a close. “Let’s make sure we are counted.”

 

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