To the editor:
As I write these words, the opportunity to be counted in the census is closing, and you — as a member of the community — should be as upset as I am.
I will explain why.
The census is a 230-year-old federally mandated initiative that is from the Constitution of the United States in order to determine how to proportion representation. It is not a government initiative to intrude on your privacy, nor is it an attempt by the government on any level to interfere with your privacy.
In fact, by law, the census is sealed for 72 years, so whatever concerns you may have, they cannot use any information except for the count for 72 years.
Every 10 years, local municipalities and states must be counted in order to proportion representatives. Since then, every level and type of government assistance has been based on the census.
When the census numbers come out, those are the numbers the government has to abide by when they appropriate members of congress, Section 8 housing vouchers, Head Start programs, food stamps, Medicaid, Medicare, Title I, and almost any other program.
Everything from affordable housing to welfare is determined by the census. One very important such service is the Child Care Block Grant, which allows so many of our yeshivas to slay afloat.
So why should I care? How will it impact me? Even if the impact is not clear and tangible to you at first glance, it truly influences you and your community. If your child requires a Head Start program, or if you require a Section 8 voucher or any type of government assistance, all of those means of support are predicated on the actual census.
Experts say for every person who doesn’t fill out the census, social services for that area are reduced by more than $1,000. That means that every single person in our community that does not fill out the census is responsible for those in our community who need government assistance, but couldn’t receive it.
It may not be you or your relatives, but every person in our community knows at least one person — from shul or yeshiva, or even work — who is struggling. Struggling to pay rent. To buy food. To pay tuition.
Regardless of how you feel about the state’s responsibility to the needy, these systems exist, and we would be fools not to take part in them. An integral part of that participation is the census.
We kvetch so much, but we just don’t get it: When it comes to being proactive, we fall down on the job. Kvetching gets you nowhere, unless it is followed by tangible action. Everyone must internalize this message.
I quite literally cannot emphasize this enough: This is a once-in-10-year opportunity. If the last few months of upheaval have not been the wake-up call that we need to do all we can to make our voices heard as much as possible, then we must be deaf, blind and ignorant.
I urge everyone to stop what you’re doing and call (800) 923-8282, or go to My2020Census.org, and respond to the census. You have until Sept. 30 to do so.
The author is the chief executive of The Friedlander Group, a public policy consulting group based in New York City and Washington, D.C.