This is the first city-wide, interfaith, large-scale movement across a wide range of faith traditions since 9/11. The effort is led by a steering committee that includes FPWA, UJA-Federation of New York, Catholic Charities of New York, Council of People’s Organization, and the Interfaith Center of New York. Planning for this major effort began in June 2019, in anticipation of the census start date of March 12. Since then over 207 faith leaders have joined the coalition. They represent many faiths including Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, and Buddhist communities.
Twenty communities will be the coalition’s primary focus from the start of the census on March 12 through June 31, the last day residents can be counted. These communities share common characteristics: many residents have incomes below the poverty line and no broadband access, and they have been identified as hard-to-count census tracts with high mail-return rates in 2010. The twenty communities are in all five boroughs and include Brownsville, East and Central Harlem, East New York, Elmhurst, and Mariner’s Harbor. The Interfaith Coalition was partially funded by the City Council to engage in census-related planning and organizing.
New York stands to lose billions in federal funding and as many as two of its 12 congressional seats if the city’s 8.6 million residents are undercounted in the 2020 census. The city’s response rate is less than the national average — 62% compared to 76% — and some neighborhoods saw rates as low as 35%. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates the New York area’s response rate could drop as low as 58% in 2020.
“Faith-based organizations and their communities have been a vibrant influence on the civic life of New York City for centuries, and that’s still true today, “ states Jennifer Jones Austin, Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director of FPWA, “Faith leaders have an intimate, hyperlocal understanding of the needs of our city’s underrepresented communities; they bring the necessary skills to ensure a comprehensive count. In the end, this is about community empowerment. Traditionally undercounted and underserved communities must be represented in the 2020 census so that they get the millions in federal funding and full representation in our national government that they deserve.”
“We are immensely grateful for all the partners in the interfaith coalition. We share the common goal of ensuring the well-being of all New Yorkers, particularly the most vulnerable. Any undercount could cost our city many millions of dollars in funding for those who need it most, and so it’s critical that we work together to make the case for widespread census participation,” says Eric S. Goldstein, CEO, UJA-Federation of New York.
“This opportunity to ensure every New Yorker is counted only comes around once in a decade,” says Monsignor Kevin Sullivan, Executive Director of Catholic Charities of New York. “Only by redoubling our efforts this year can we ensure that our communities will receive the necessary funding for vital public services, including schools, hospitals, fire departments, and neighborhood and business plans.”
“By reaching across faith lines to include the extraordinary diversity of New York City’s religious leaders and their communities, Interfaith Census 2020 Count Coalition will ensure that every New Yorker has a chance to be counted. ICNY and our partners believe that every New Yorker counts,“ says Reverend Dr. Chloe Breyer, Executive Director, The Interfaith Center of New York.
“It is imperative to work with faith leaders to ensure a fair and accurate count. The current administration has created an atmosphere full of fear. It is incumbent upon the faith leaders and people with goodwill to share the message that their voice counts and everyone matters. We must show we are here to receive the funding available for our communities to flourish,” says Mohammad Razvi, CEO, Council of Peoples Organization.
FPWA is an anti-poverty policy and advocacy organization committed to advancing economic opportunity and upward mobility for low-income New Yorkers. As a prominent force for justice for nearly 100 years, FPWA has served New York City’s human services sector, providing grants to support individuals and families as they strive to meet their basic needs while advocating for fair public policies on behalf of underserved people and the agencies that work with them. FPWA’s member network of 170 human-services and faith-based organizations reach more than 1.5 million people in New York City each year. Join us and our members at fpwa.org.
ABOUT THE INTERFAITH CENSUS 2020 COUNT COALITION
The Interfaith Census 2020 Count Coalition is a diverse collective of faith leaders and faith-based organizations across New York City that seek to decrease fear, shatter apathy, and inspire hope to ensure a better future for all New Yorkers through a complete count in the 2020 census. The Coalition is building on the city’s pledge to support community-based organizing for the census. This monumental effort acknowledges the strength of New York City’s faith network and serves as a testament to how much can be accomplished when faith leaders work collectively with City government.
The Coalition steering committee includes FPWA, Catholic Charities, UJA New York the Council of People’s Organization, and the Interfaith Center of New York.