Ida Perez, director of children and family stability services for Ibero-American Action League, speaks during the ROC Rally to Complete Count July 29 at the David F. Gantt Recreation Center in Rochester. The event updated the community on local census efforts and other activities planned to encourage greater participation in the 2020 census. (EMC photo by Jeff Witherow)

Ida Perez, director of children and family stability services for Ibero-American Action League, speaks during the ROC Rally to Complete Count July 29 at the David F. Gantt Recreation Center in Rochester. The event updated the community on local census efforts and other activities planned to encourage greater participation in the 2020 census. (EMC photo by Jeff Witherow)

Census initiatives urge Rochester residents to fill out questionnaire

With a goal of increasing the 2020 census self-response rate in the City of Rochester and surrounding counties, the Rochester-Monroe Complete Count Committee is presenting several outreach efforts in August to help residents complete the questionnaire.

Among them were Census Mobile Questionnaire Assistance events conducted during Census PUSH Week, July 27-Aug. 2.

Created by the New York Regional Census Center, Census PUSH Week was a competition among the state’s regions for the greatest increase in census self-response rates. It was part of continued efforts to spread awareness across New York, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Vermont and Puerto Rico about the importance of filling out the 2020 census.

To kick off Census PUSH week, the Rochester-Monroe Complete Count Committee hosted the “ROC Rally to Complete Count” July 29 at the David F. Gantt R-Center in Rochester. The event’s theme reflected the movement for racial equity while addressing the importance of completing the questionnaire in order to strengthen black and brown communities, with discussion of consequences to those communities if they are not fully counted. Event organizers also provided information on local census efforts and other activities to encourage greater participation.

Questionnaire-assistance activities like the ROC Rally during Census PUSH Week helped Monroe County and the City of Rochester to achieve a 0.6 percent increase in their rates of self responses, putting them in third place in the regional competition. Prior to the start of PUSH Week on July 24, Monroe County had a self-response rate of 64.40 percent, and the City of Rochester had a self-response rate of 47.80 percent, according to Chris Iven, NYRCC media specialist.

Census PUSH week events were strategically scheduled before census non-response follow-up operations were set to begin Aug. 11. At that time, census representatives began knocking on the doors of households that have yet to complete the questionnaire.

On Aug. 3 the U.S. Census Bureau moved up by one month the deadline for completing the census. The new Sept. 30 deadline will ensure the bureau has enough time to review data before Dec. 31, the statutory deadline for the census, according to a statement from Steven Dillingham, census bureau director.

To help increase census response rates within the community, Miguel Meléndez, chief community engagement officer at Ibero-American Action League, is hosting “We’re Going to ROC the Block” outreach events in Rochester throughout August. These types of efforts are even more critical now that the census period was cut by a month, he said.

According to Meléndez, ROC the Block volunteers will go door to door on selected days, offering materials to assist in completion of the questionnaire by residents in portions of northeast Rochester with the lowest rates of self response. He noted that the volunteer teams — which will include Spanish translators — will maintain social distance, wear masks and use sanitizer to safely canvass the area.

ROC the Block events are set for the following dates and neighborhoods:

• Tuesday, Aug. 11 — 777 Clifford Ave., Rochester, 6 to 8 p.m.

• Saturday, Aug. 15 — 821 N. Clinton Ave., Rochester, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

• Thursday, Aug. 20 — Norton Street area, Rochester, 6 to 8 p.m.

Ibero has been leading the effort to reach these hard-to-count areas, noted Orlando Ortiz, president of the Puerto Rican Festival of Rochester. Ortiz, who spoke at the ROC Rally to Complete Count event, has been encouraging residents, especially those in the Latino community, to complete the census.

“Many times, these hard-to-count areas are unaware the census is happening and unaware of the importance and repercussions of (Latinos) being left out,” he told El Mensajero Católico Aug. 10.

Ortiz added that some members of the Latino community do not complete the questionnaire out of fear that doing so will disclose their immigration status, potentially endangering them and their families.

“We want to ensure the Latino community is aware the census doesn’t ask these questions (on immigration status),” so residents shouldn’t be afraid for their families when completing the census, he said.

Ortiz said the plan for ROC the Block is to knock on doors to educate residents about the importance of participating in the census and provide information on how to complete the questionnaire. He noted that volunteers will not complete the census on anyone’s behalf, but will encourage residents to complete the questionnaire themselves online, by phone or by mail.

Ortiz said he hopes seeing members of the community canvassing the area for a complete count will yield better participation in the 2020 census.

“The early phases of the census have concentrated on TV, radio, events, mailings and social media,” he said. “As we approach the final months of the census, we must do the door-to-door to ensure those who haven’t completed the survey participate.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: Civic leaders encourage Rochester residents to use social media to spread awareness about the journey toward a complete count by using the hashtag #2020CENSUS.

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