Politics

The 2020 Census offers needed federal funding to cities and towns in Fairfield County where Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim and members of the Complete Count Task Force assembled recently to encourage city residents to complete the census.
The 2020 Census offers needed federal funding to cities and towns in Fairfield County where Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim and members of the Complete Count Task Force assembled recently to encourage city residents to complete the census. Photo Credit: Courtesy of City of Bridgeport

Officials Urge Fairfield County Residents To Complete Census For Vital Funding

A poor response can cost municipalities millions in key federal dollars, which is why states and local officials have been ramping up public efforts around Fairfield County to urge residents to complete the 2020 Census. The campaigns also remind residents that there is still time to apply — note the April 1 (Census Day) deadline — for the 3,000 census jobs, some paying as much as $25 per hour in Connecticut.

By April 1,  an invitation will have arrived in the mail for residents to complete the 2020 Census online, by phone or by mail. Census data is used to distribute more than $675 billion in federal funds annually to cities and towns for schools, hospitals, roads, public works and other vital programs.

Lieutenant Governor Susan Bysiewicz joined Mayor Harry Rilling and city officials, state legislators and representatives, among others, in a press conference in January to highlight state and local efforts to ensure high levels of participation in the 2020 Census.

On Monday, Feb. 24,  Bysiewicz was in Danbury with Mayor Mark Boughton and members of the Danbury Complete Count Committee to boost cooperation there. 

“Completing the 2020 Census is absolutely crucial for the City of Danbury to secure proper funding for our community. We have created several initiatives within our Complete Count Committee that will be rolled out throughout the spring in order to encourage our residents to be counted," said Boughton.

Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim hosted a job fair for the Complete Count Task Force on Thursday, Feb. 20. He told Daily Voice Plus that the city, which is in the midst of a growth spurt, counts heavily on census data to support programs for its "most vulnerable" population, from homeless to people with AIDs and special needs.

Key funding for any city through the HOME Investment Partnerships Program, which is the largest federal block grant to state and local governments designed to create affordable housing for low-income households, is based on population information from the census. The assistance comes from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) — funding Ganim credits with creating over 600 units of affordable housing that benefit Bridgeport.

"It is important because we are a large city by Connecticut standards and because it's very easy in a highly populated location not to be counted, but the census is more important to us than probably other towns in the region," Ganim said. 

He noted that many residents live in two- and three-story buildings, where census workers have to go door-to-door and may not find anyone at home or willing to answer a knock.

Spanish-speaking households who may be reticent to answer their doors to strangers or non-Spanish speakers are more likely to respond to census takers who speak Spanish or are "neighbors they know," Ganim. He emphasized the benefit of having local citizens apply to be census takers, Spanish-speaking applicants especially. Ganim believes the temporary jobs may be especially interesting to working households because of their flexibility, which allows for working nights and weekends. 

"We're not going to get credit unless people step up," added Ganim. " It can be millions of dollars sometimes."

In addition, according to Ganim, federal funding based on census figures allows municipalities to "redistribute funds to worthwhile community organizations, all driven by population." 

For information about job opportunities, including census taker, field supervisor, recruiting assistant, clerk and operations supervisors, click here