By: Madison Starr, Writer / Follow South Jersey Bridgeton City Intern
BRIDGETON, N.J. — Another decade has rolled around, which means there’s another census for Americans to fill out. However, with new ways to complete the census and our current unprecedented times, there are plenty of questions floating around.
To put it simply, the government puts out a new census to collect information on family dynamics, sex, age, race, and more within a community every ten years. Aside from being a headcount of who lives in the United States, the census also allows the government to use this data to determine how funds will be allocated within a given community.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the plan to get as many people filling out their census as possible was to provide mail-in, online, and call-in options. However, the pandemic has slowed the process and even canceled many in-person events and canvassing that would have promoted the census across the country. Now, government officials are adjusting as best they can to ensure citizens fill it out.
Sharon Mollick, the senior planner for Cumberland County, has been working behind the scenes to make sure things still go as smoothly as possible. Mollick has implemented several initiatives, including a challenge to design a sign promoting the census, delivering informational materials to family centers and food pantries, and more.
The planning department also partnered with the Office on Aging to deliver census materials and give assistance to those who want to complete their census at senior centers, by utilizing a “census bus.” The planning department is also scheduling events to provide assistance to Spanish masses.
As things slowly start to open back up, there will even be in-person events and activities to help move things along.
“We are doing everything following the state’s guidelines and practicing social distancing at all of our upcoming events,” Mollick said.
The reason Cumberland County officials are working so hard to get residents to fill out their census is because of the severe undercount they’re facing. Without everyone filling out their census, Bridgeton, Cumberland County, and South Jersey as a whole won’t get the funding they need for different programs that may be vital to residents. In the past, the state of New Jersey has even lost seats in the House of Representatives due to lower census counts.
As of July 1, it is estimated that only 61.3% of Cumberland County residents have filled out the census. With such low response numbers, this means the county won’t receive as much funding for things like social services Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF).
To help people who may be unsure of how to complete the census, video guides have been created in English and Spanish — as well as several Indigenous Latin American Languages: Garifuna, Mixtec, K’iche’, and Kichwa.
Self-response has been extended to October 31 due to the pandemic. For more information visit the Census’ official website or Cumberland County’s census resource page. Please consider sharing this article to help get the word out about the census and the importance it has for our communities.
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This article was produced by a Follow South Jersey news intern thanks to a grant provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation through the New Jersey Health Initiatives program to create hyper-local news to meet the informational and health needs of the City of Bridgeton, N.J.