Philadelphia office for US Census is officially open

Cherri Gregg
January 28, 2020 - 5:00 pm
Dozens packed into a room in the U.S. Census office at 615 Chestnut Street to mark the opening of the federal headquarters for Philadelphia operations of the U.S. Census.

Cherri Gregg/KYW Newsradio

Categories: 

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The Philadelphia office dedicated to the U.S. Census is officially open. 

Dozens packed into a room in the U.S. Census office at 615 Chestnut Street to mark the opening of the federal headquarters for Philadelphia operations of the U.S. Census.

"We are excited. I think the turnout reflects the excitement in the city," said U.S. Census regional director Fernando Armstrong. 

He says the U.S. Census Bureau is hiring right now and so far, 83% of the jobs have been filled, but there are still more than 1,200 openings. 

Then, in just six weeks, the government will start sending invitations to residents asking them to participate.

"They're going to come in the mail. The first invitation is going to be a letter," said Stephanie Reid, executive director of Philly Counts 2020. Her office is the city-run effort to promote local participation in the census. 

She says between mid-March and mid-April, residents will receive up to five mailings asking for participation. Once you respond, you will stop receiving mailings.

To help get the word out and answer questions, the city has engaged 5,000 volunteers.

"It's fast and easy. Nine questions in 10 minutes," said Reid. "It's safe and secure and it can't be used against you in any way."

A big goal is to quell fears.

"We are working nonstop in the community, going to the schools and the high schools to make sure people have the information, which is important in the Latino community," said Charito Morales of Providence Center. 

She says many in the immigrant communities are afraid to provide information to the government, so they ambassadors who are going into neighborhoods to dispel any misinformation.

"They are afraid because of ICE and wrong information that has been provided about citizenship questions," said Morales. "We are making sure that people know that those questions are not there. We have to regain community trust."

Residents who fail to respond will get a knock on their door between mid-May and end of July when the counting wraps up. Reid says each person counted is equal to $2,100 in federal dollars a year, or $21,000 over the course of a decade.  

"Think about that. If we miss a family of five, that $100,000 that the city could lose between now and the next census," said Reid.

The count will also determine location and number of seats in the U.S. and state legislature. 

Mayor Jim Kenney says participation by everyone is crucial.

"The more of us are counted, the more resources we get and the more political clout we have and we can change our destiny," he said, "just by being counted."