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Lt. Gov. Bysiewicz urging New Londoners to join 2020 census effort

New London — Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz joined community leaders Wednesday in her latest stop in a statewide outreach effort designed to harness local support in preparation for the 2020 U.S. census.

With $10.7 billion dollars in annual federal funding to the state on the line, an accurate count of the people living in Connecticut is crucial, Bysiewicz said.

The federal funds, some of which could be lost with an undercount, finds its way into numerous programs, such as Medicaid, student loans, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, highway construction and housing assistance and a host of other financial assistance programs.

“This is a monumental and massive effort because we have over three and a half million people in our state and we are just about a year away from the census process,” Bysiewicz said. “I have been traveling around the state to lay the foundation for a complete count.”

The census data, which is collected every 10 years, also will be used to form legislative and congressional districts in 2022. The state, with five congressional representatives, last lost a U.S. House district seat and one electoral vote following the 2000 census.

New London is one of two dozen stops for Bysiewicz and an example of a city that presents challenges in gathering accurate data because of its many multifamily dwellings and transient population. It is labeled as a “hard to count” area, which means it is home to one or more of the three most difficult groups to count: children under the age of 5, immigrants and black men ages 18-24, said Mark Plumley, a U.S. Census Bureau representative for Rhode Island and Connecticut.

The challenges can only be overcome, Bysiewicz said, by enlisting a host of local civic and faith-based groups, local officials and other “trusted voices” in the community. She was joined Thursday by Mayor Michael Passero, state Rep. Anthony Nolan, D-New London, and representatives from Centro de la Comunidad, the Public Library of New London, New London NAACP and others at the Church of the City in downtown New London.

Passero said he suspects the 27,000 figure used for New London’s population over the last decade is an underestimate and promised city cooperation in getting the word out.

Church of the City Rev. Daniel Martino said his congregation is composed of immigrants from 19 different nations and holds services in English, Spanish and French-Creole. He said he views the census as the only sure way to reveal the growing numbers of Latino residents and other immigrants both in New London and the U.S.

“It’s vital that all of our people get counted. We want to help. This is something that can change the perspective of politicians and the way we see the U.S.,” Martino said. “We are the voice for many of these immigrants, who are contributing to the community, who have businesses and are doing a great job.”

Joseph Marino, executive director of the Immigration Advocacy and Support Center in New London, said there is a natural distrust among immigrants about revealing personal information on government forms.

President Donald Trump’s administration added to the uneasiness with its push for a citizenship question on the census form, something Marino said could serve to intimidate noncitizens. The U.S. Supreme Court may resolve that issue this summer. Census officials already are prohibited from sharing personal information on census forms with local, state or federal agencies, Bysiewicz said.

The 2020 census will be the first that allows online registration, something Public Library of New London Executive Director Madhu Gupta said the library will be promoting in the coming months. The library is an important partner for the census in bridging a “digital divide” and aiding a segment of New London’s population without regular access to a computer.

Bysiewicz in February launched and serves as the chairwoman of the Complete Count Committee, which has representatives from 50 different groups to help the effort. Local committee members include Stonington First Selectman Rob Simmons and Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut President Tony Sheridan.

The formal count begins in 2020. Recruitment has begun and three area census offices in the state will be opening in mid- to late summer. In addition to supervisors and clerical support, members of the community will be hired to work in the local neighborhoods and earn $21 an hour.

“We have once every 10 years to get this right,” Plumley said.

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