The Census 2020 effort has successfully kicked off this month, with community leaders hoping for a full count that could knock on the door of nearly 60,000 residents this time.
While most believe Everett has about 60,000 people living in the community, the City has historically been hard to count due to language barriers, the large immigrant population, density in living conditions, and confusion about who can participate. That has resulted in artificially lower counts in population over the years, with the most recent count at under 50,000.
City Clerk Sergio Cornelio is the liaison to the Census effort for the City, and he said the federal government has targeted Everett at around 52,000 for 2020, but he hopes the City can go higher with a coordinated effort.
“If we can fill out the Census with strong numbers, it just means more money for the schools and the community development block grant – which goes to street and sidewalk repairs mostly,” he said. “We’re definitely 50,000. We’re probably really closer to 60,000. Their numbers at 52,000 were based on three people per unit. That’s low for us and that’s where we get the 60,000 number. We should comfortably hit 52,000…If we can get between 55,000 and 60,000 conservatively, that would be a strong number.”
Cornelio said hitting 50,000 officially also is a big deal because it means Everett would become a “big city” in regards to federal community block grants.
“It’s a larger number if we hit 50,000,” he said. “A lot of that money – 60 to 70 percent, goes back to our children in the public schools. It only serves to help the whole community if we can get a good count.”
That’s exactly what City and state officials were looking to do in a kick-off rally hosted by State Rep. Joe McGonagle at the Connolly Center on Nov. 14 – where City, state and Census 2020 officials gathered to impress upon the importance of counting everyone no matter what their immigration status is at the moment.
State Rep. Paul Mark, who represents the Berkshires and is on the re-districting committee working with the Census 2020, said Everett only had a rate of about 67 percent response in 2010. That’s what led to the low count of below 50,000.
“This is one of the hardest places in the entire state to count,” he said.
He also said that Boston has grown by an estimated 11.8 percent, while Everett has grown about 12.5 percent at the same time – which outpaces the average of Middlesex County (7.43 percent) by a long shot.
“In Everett itself…there was 12.51 percent growth,” he said. “People want to live here and want to stay here. You’re beating the state and Boston average in growth. When you look at what it means for the state, it’s critical.”
He said state representative seats, state senate seats and Congress seats will be growing in the numbers of people they represent from the 2010 numbers. It is possible, he said, to gain seats in Congress with a good count.
Mayor Carlo DeMaria said it is important to note there is no citizenship question on the form as that was taken off by a ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court. He said people should not be afraid to fill out the Census, and that doing so will not lead to trouble.
“It doesn’t matter where you were born or how you got here,” he said. “It is only who is here on April 1, 2020.”
To help with that, the mayor and Cornelio have formed a Complete Count Committee that is made up of community leaders from all ethnicities and immigrant groups. Those ambassadors to the Census will do their best in the coming months to begin to build trust in the Census effort, and to show that it is safe and helpful.
Georgia Lowe of the New York Regional Census Center – which is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce – said the Census information is protected, and all workers swear to that under oath.
“The information you provide is safe and cannot be released, even to law enforcement,” she said. “Our workers take an oath sworn for life to protect data.”
This time, she said, the questions are also a lot less specific, focusing on getting an accurate count rather than on other demographic information.
The Census 2020 effort will begin on March 12, when mailings go out to each household inviting them to respond to online or by phone to the Census. A paper copy of the Census will then go out, and if there is still no response, employees from Census 2020 will begin canvassing the neighborhood and knocking on doors to get a count.
“We’re trying to avoid having to go out knocking on doors as much as possible,” said Cornelio. “We’re trying to make it as easy as possible to fill out the Census in 2020.”
By order of the U.S. Constitution, the U.S. Department of Commerce is required every 10 years to do a full count to the extent possible of every person in the United States as of April 1.