Month: November 2019

New Committee Working to Ensure we are ALL Counted

Written by Tory Russo

Tory Russo, The City of Syracuse’s Census Coordinator for the United States Census Bureau 2020 Census count, shares the importance of every resident being counted.

In 2020, the U.S. Census Bureau will conduct the nation’s next census. It happens every 10 years and aims to count every person living in the United States. A complete and accurate count of communities is critical. In addition to providing basic population characteristics of U.S. residents, census data is used to reapportion congressional seats allocated to each state in the House of Representatives, redraw legislative boundaries, and distribute more than $675 billion federal dollars to states each year.

After the 2010 Census, New York State has lost two representatives and more than $1.5 billion of federal funds to our state each year since then. Even a 0.6 percent undercount in 2020 will result in the loss of two additional representatives and could affect federal funding that supports hundreds of vital community programs and services like Medicaid, Medicare, SNAP, WIC, Head Start, school lunches, highway planning and construction, and business and industry loans.

One of those programs is the Community Block Grant Development program. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) determines the amount of each grant with a formula that considers population and a number of other factors. In the most recent fully-funded year, May 2018 to April 2019, the City of Syracuse received almost five million dollars. This was reallocated to fund programs at organizations including ARISE, Catholic Charities, Dunbar Center, Home HeadQuarters, InterFaith Works, Jubilee Homes, NEHDA, and the YWCA.

The impact of the census on communities is significant – and so is the challenge of counting everyone.

More than 30 of the 55 census tracts in the City of Syracuse had self-response rates below 73 percent in the 2010 Census. This means more than one-quarter of households in these tracts did not complete their census and required follow-up by Census Bureau enumerators, which increased the risk that people were missed. These response rates caused these tracts to be ranked among the “hardest-to-count” tracts in the country.

In an effort to help communities identify hard-to-count (HTC) areas and support the development of communications and outreach about the 2020 Census, the Census Bureau launched its Response Outreach Area Mapper (ROAM) tool. This map uses data to predict the percentage of households that will not respond to the 2020 Census. Again, more than half of the tracts in Syracuse are expected to have below a 73 percent self-response rate in 2020.

So, what’s being done?

Communities across the country, including Syracuse and Onondaga County, have assembled Complete Count Committees (CCC) to inform residents about why the census is important, how they can make sure they’re counted, and what temporary job opportunities are available through the Census Bureau.

These multi-sector coalitions have been developing outreach plans, focused on reaching people who have been traditionally and historically undercounted, including: immigrants and mixed-status households, migrant workers; refugees; young children, people of color; people in rural areas and people lacking internet access.

The Syracuse-Onondaga County Complete Count Committee (SOC-CCC) consists of more than 20 subcommittees categorized as engagement, government, community, education, or business. These subcommittees have been meeting regularly since August 2019 to form and implement action plans for census outreach in local HTC neighborhoods and communities.

The City is supporting the SOC-CCC by providing trainings and updates, developing communications campaigns and materials, and coordinating activities with community stakeholders. The County is focusing on outreach and education in Onondaga County’s hardest-to-count rural communities, by coordinating with libraries across the county and supporting the formation of Complete Count Committees in towns and villages.

In addition, the City of Syracuse and Onondaga County have been applying for grants to fund a Census Ambassador Program and an outdoor advertising campaign, respectively, and coordinating with state and federal government representatives to better align local efforts.

But all of these efforts require participation and support from organizations and individuals who can work to ensure that residents of every city, town, and village in Central New York know our communities count.

So, what can you do?

  1. Learn more by following the Census Bureau @uscensusbureau and skimming these suggested resources:
  1. Inform and encourage your network by participating in our #Take20 for #Census2020 campaign:
  • Take 20 seconds to record a video explaining why you plan to complete the census and share it on your social media accounts.
  • Take 20 minutes to talk with your family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues about the importance of the census.
  • Take 20 minutes to complete your census in 2020 and encourage your employer to designate a day and time in April 2020 for staff to complete it.
  • Participate in local “Calls to Action” on the 20th of each month. Contact to be added to the listserv.
  1. Apply or help others apply for a temporary, part-time job with the Census Bureau
  • Local census takers will be paid $17 per hour
  • Income won’t affect eligibility or benefit amounts for most assistance programs
  • Certain noncitizens are eligible to be hired
  1. Volunteer with a Complete Count Committee

Community Needs Assessment Enhanced with ‘Data Dating’; Nearly $120,000 in New Grants Will Help Nonprofits Measure

Enhancements to a community assessment tool, designed by the Central New York Community Foundation, are making it easier for area nonprofits to analyze their programming in real-time, ‘match’ with partner organizations, and evaluate the greatest concerns of those they serve.

Community assessment is a major focus of the Community Foundation’s Performance Management Learning Community (PMLC), now entering its eighth year. PMLC uses grant dollars and peer learning to help nonprofits measure their effectiveness.

PEACE, Inc., a federally-designated Community Action Agency that works to help people become more self-sufficient, joined PMLC last year to continue becoming data-structured from within. The organization’s goal was to help staff effectively track and measure the effectiveness of its food pantries, family resource centers, and programming for youth and seniors.

“The first objective within our organization’s strategic plan is to develop a data-driven culture,” said Todd Goehle, development coordinator at PEACE, Inc. “So we identified emerging leaders across our organization who could take what they’ve learned from PMLC and make it a part of our daily philosophy.”

After a year in PMLC, PEACE, Inc. consolidated database systems, which now allows staff members to collaborate across teams and with external organizations. In addition, the agency benefited greatly from the findings of PMLC’s community needs assessment, a measurement of which life needs—such as affordable long-term housing, addiction counseling, lead poisoning support, job readiness and economic independence—are not being adequately met for those living in poverty. PMLC participants can study responses to the needs assessment by neighborhood or census tract to complete pre-and post-program evaluation.

“When we evaluated the data that we and our PMLC partners gathered, it became clear to us that we needed to double down on our food pantries,” said Goehle. “We found that there is a real need for food and personal items within some neighborhoods of the city, and we need to increase our efforts to get funding that will allow us to increase our supplies.”

This fall, the Community Foundation released a whitepaper that examined the impact that can be made if social programs addressed the nuances within the areas where they work, as PEACE is doing.

Recently, the Community Foundation introduced new online enhancements to the assessment tool, which include access to interactive, real-time results. This allows nonprofits to take their analyses one step further. Nicknamed ‘data dating,’ organizations can quickly identify other participating organizations they ‘match’ with for collaboration, such as to fulfill a client need that they do not offer. The tool also makes information about program measurement accessible by all members within an organization, from front-line staff to executive directors, without the need for extensive training.

Goehle reports that he hopes to use the new interactive features to partner with organizations that have clients reporting needs that PEACE, Inc. can help provide.

“The data that we’re accumulating doesn’t necessarily reflect the community at large,” he said. “This tool gives us opportunities, especially with live mapping, to identify locations where interventions can be made.”

This year, seven organizations received a total of $118,756 in grants to join the next PMLC class: ACR Health ($20,000); Everson Museum ($15,000); Hiscock Legal Aid Society ($20,000); Mercy Works ($20,000); Madison County Health Department ($15,200); Northside Learning Center ($14,956); and Planned Parenthood of Central and Western New York ($13,600).

The Community Foundation awards PMLC grants toward data measuring efforts, which include such things as database management and statistical analysis, to help nonprofits track their efforts and look for trends. This in turn assists the organizations in identifying what is working and what’s not, leading to the development of more effective programming and funding competitiveness. Applicants agreed to participate in a year-long learning community in order to qualify for a grant.

Another six organizations are joining PMLC Prep and PMLC Pro groups to learn how to collect community assessment responses and use the new interactive tool in new and innovative ways with $5,000 grants each: Huntington Family Center; On Point for College; PEACE, Inc.; Refugee & Immigrant Self-Empowerment; Southwest Community Center; Westcott Community Center; and Women’s Opportunity Center.

For organizations like PEACE, Inc., the PMLC collaboration is helping form new connections that will benefit the community as a whole.

“Sometimes in Syracuse, organizations tend to work in silos and there are not always a lot of opportunities to meet and exchange ideas,” Goehle said. “This provides us with an opportunity to all get to the table and examine through data how we can work through problems collectively.”