Concerned about the serious long-term political and financial consequences of an inaccurate census count for New York City, The New York Community Trust has joined with the New York Foundation, the Open Society Institute, and other funders to launch the 2010 Census Funders NYC Initiative.
Because immigrants, African Americans, Latinos, and other minority groups have traditionally been undercounted, the funders’ group has awarded $562,000 to 35 grassroots and advocacy groups which will work in communities throughout the five boroughs to explain the importance of the census and dispel fears about how census data is used.
An incomplete count could mean lost congressional seats and hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funding for education, health care, and more. In fact, for every 100 people not counted, a community loses an estimated $1.2 million in federal money. But with only 55 percent of City households completing the census questionnaire in 2000, concerned funders met with federal, City, and State census experts to determine how foundation funding and expertise could be best put to use. The foundations decided to pool their resources to help a broad swath of effective and trusted local groups use creative and targeted outreach activities in communities with historically low response rates.
“We are spreading the money strategically to have big impact where it matters most,” says New York Community Trust senior program officer Patricia Swann. “Because some of our neighborhoods are so dense, a modest grant for one small neighborhood group, or a smart media campaign targeting a particular constituency, can reach hundreds of thousands of people.”
The challenges to counting all New Yorkers are varied, and not easy to overcome. Although names, addresses, and other information collected by the census are totally confidential and cannot legally be shared with immigration, housing, or other authorities, many people remain skeptical. Undocumented immigrants fear detention and deportation. Families doubling or tripling up in one home fear their information could be given to the buildings or fire departments and get them evicted. Public housing residents are wary of reporting any residents not on the lease.
“Some people fear they could be kicked out of public housing, or have their rent increase as a result of filling out the Census form,” says Jill Eisenhard, executive director of the Red Hook Initiative. “Our census outreach workers are people from the Red Hook Houses and will be knocking on doors in all 89 buildings, running a phone bank, and holding educational events.”
“If you tell people that answering the census questionnaire means more education funding for the next ten years, it really rings a bell for families,” says Andy Yu, executive director of United Chinese Association of Brooklyn, “We are giving out flyers during the parade on the Chinese New Year, and at many other events, and we are holding weekly meetings in Bensonhurst to train volunteers who can explain the importance of the census in Chinese dialects.”
The New York Taxi Workers Alliance will mobilize its 11,000 workers in airport lots, taxi garages, and restaurants to take part in the census. The Alliance will make the connections between the census, political representation, transit policy, and what that means to the workers’ bottom lines.
In conjunction with the U.S. Census Bureau’s ad campaign, the New York Immigration Coalition and the New York Community Media Alliance will run a series of print ads to target specific ethnic groups in the City, printed in less-common languages and featuring respected community members. Foundations played a pivotal role in the City’s 2000 census outreach efforts, with a $175,000 grant from the New York Foundation helping to mobilize outreach efforts in historically undercounted communities. A New York Community Trust grant helped the City update its mailing list for the 2000 census, adding 370,000 people that the U.S. Census Bureau could not find on its own. This resulted in an additional $600 million for New Yorkers over the past 10 years, according to Joseph Salvo, the director of the Department for City Planning’s Population Division.
Other foundations in the 2010 Census Funders NYC Initiative include: Durst Foundation, Census Community Outreach Fund at Public Interest Projects, and Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund.
The 35 Census Grantees follow:
Citizens Committee for New York City
Coalition for Institutionalized Aged and Disabled
The New School / Center for NYC Affairs
New York Community Media Alliance
New York Immigration Coalition
New York Taxi Workers Alliance
NY Voting Rights Consortium
Youth Communication New York Center
Chinese American Planning Council
· Mirabal Sisters Cultural and Community Center
· Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights
Arab American Association of New York
Brooklyn Congregations United
Coalition for the Improvement of Bedford Stuyvesant
Council of Peoples Organization
Make the Road New York (also working in Queens and Staten Island
Red Hook Initiative
United Chinese Association
Chhaya Community Development Corporation
Drum-Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM)
Jacob A. Riis Neighborhood Settlement House
New Immigrant Community Empowerment
Ocean Bay Community Development Corporation
Queens Congregations United for Action
Southern Queens Park Civic Association
Adhikaar for Human Rights and Social Justice
Picture the Homeless
African Refuge Inc.
About The New York Community Trust
Through the generosity of New Yorkers, past and present, who set up charitable funds with us, The New York Community Trust makes grants for a broad array of charitable activity so important to the well-being and vitality of our city. Since 1924, The Trust has helped donors achieve their charitable goals by funding effective nonprofits that offer proven and promising solutions to the City’s challenges. The Trust ended 2009 with assets of $1.8 billion in nearly 2,000 charitable funds, and made grants totaling $127 million (unaudited).
About the New York Foundation
One of the first foundations in the United States, established in 1909 with a gift from Alfred M. Heinsheimer, the New York Foundation has provided early support to neighborhoods, communities, and organizations seeking to improve life in the city. Today, we support a range of community organizing, advocacy, self-help and community development organizations throughout the five boroughs. We are particularly interested in start-up grants to new, untested programs that have few other sources of support and have developed programs to build the capacity of small organizations.
About the Open Society Institute
The Open Society Institute (OSI) and its sister organizations work to build vibrant and tolerant democracies whose governments are accountable to their citizens. To achieve its mission, OSI seeks to shape public policies that assure greater fairness in political, legal, and economic systems and safeguard fundamental rights. On a local level, OSI implements a range of initiatives to advance justice, education, public health, and independent media. Investor and philanthropist George Soros in 1993 created OSI as a private operating and grantmaking foundation to support his foundations in Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. Based in New York City, OSI has expanded the activities of the Soros foundations network to encompass the United States and more than 60 countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America.