With 21 days to go before a federal deadline to end the count for the 2020 Census, Asian Americans for Equality (AAFE) and Councilmember Peter Koo joined with ICNA Relief at its weekly food distribution in Flushing on Wednesday, Sept. 9, to help community members complete their census questionnaires.
The event was held at ICNA Relief’s food pantry located at 140-32 Cherry Avenue, where representatives from the U.S. Census Bureau assisted community members with the online census questionnaire in English, Chinese and Spanish.
ICNA Relief strives to uplift the underserved through a nationwide network of shelters, food pantries, health clinics, skill development programs, disaster relief services, refugee services and more.
Koo said the food pantry at ICNA Relief is just one of many in the community that could benefit from a full and accurate census count.
“Every week, people line the streets in our community for emergency food assistance that has been made worse by the coronavirus pandemic. Filling out the census will ensure the rights and needs of every person is counted when our government determines what funding will go to policies, programs and services,” Koo said. “Far too many times in the past, immigrants, people of color, and particularly the Asian community, have not benefited from an accurate census count. As a result, our community gets short changed time after time. We need to make sure everyone is counted and our community is represented.”
According to AAFE, billions of dollars for critical social services, health care, education and transportation are on the line in the decennial census. Full participation is the only way to ensure that hard to count communities such as Flushing receive their fair share.
The federal government abruptly decided to end counting on Sept. 30, one month early, in spite of numerous challenges impeding a complete count due to COVID-19. A federal judge has blocked the government’s efforts to shut down the count until a Sept. 17 court hearing.
“As our communities struggle to overcome the devastating health and economic impacts of COVID-19, we cannot stress strongly enough the importance of a complete count,” said Jennifer Sun and Thomas Yu, AAFE co-executive directors. “It is the key to delivering adequate government resources for Flushing and other immigrant communities that have been historically overlooked.”
AAFE is a 46-year-old nonprofit organization which provides access to social services, affordable housing, good jobs, as well as senior and youth programs from two offices in Flushing. The organization is one of dozens of community groups that partnered with the City of New York to get out the count.
After Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s statewide shutdown order in March, AAFE provided virtual services to community members across New York impacted by the pandemic. Plans are in the works to reopen community service offices in the weeks ahead, prioritizing the safety and health of AAFE’s staff and the community-at-large.
The census is easy, safe, and confidential. The census is 10 simple questions that take less than 10 minutes to complete. All New Yorkers can easily self-respond now online at my2020census.gov or by phone at 1-844-330-2020.
The census does not ask about immigration, citizenship, criminal history, or income. By law, all census responses are completely confidential and cannot be shared with anyone, including any immigration authorities, tax authorities, any law enforcement authorities, or even landlords.
The penalties for breaking this law, Title XIII of the U.S. Code, are up to five years in prison and $250,000 in fines. This law has not been broken since it was passed in 1953.