Jasey, Lopez & Sumter Bill to Ensure New Jersey’s Participation in 2020 Federal Decennial Census Goes to Governor

(TRENTON) -Legislation sponsored by Assemblywomen Mila Jasey, Yvonne Lopez and Shavonda Sumter to establish the “New Jersey Complete Count Commission,” which will help ensure the state’s full participation in the 2020 federal decennial census, received final legislative approval Saturday and now heads to the governor’s desk.

“Because federal funds, grants and support to states, counties and communities are based on population totals and breakdowns by sex, age, race and other factors, communities benefit the most when the census counts everyone,” said Jasey (D-Essex/Morris). “We need all hands on deck in New Jersey to ensure that our communities are fully represented in the 2020 census.

“Ensuring full participation and avoiding undercounting helps communities get their fair share of the more than $675 billion per year in federal funds spent on schools, hospitals, roads, public works and other vital programs.”

The bill (A-4208) establishes the “New Jersey Complete Count Commission,” consisting of 27 members: the President of the Senate; the Speaker of the General Assembly; the Senate Minority Leader; the General Assembly Minority Leader; two members of the New Jersey Legislative Latino Caucus, one from each house, to be appointed at the recommendation of the caucus chairperson; two members from the New Jersey Legislative Black Caucus, one from each house, to be appointed at the recommendation of the caucus chairperson; the Governor; the Secretary of State; the Commissioner of the Department of Labor and Workforce Development; three individuals representing municipalities in this state, appointed by the Secretary of State; four individuals representing counties in this state, appointed by the Governor; one representative each from four different organizations representing the interests of minorities in the state, appointed by the Secretary of State; one representative each from three different organizations representing the interests of business in the state, including one organization representing minority business interests, appointed by the Governor; and two individuals representing community-based, philanthropic, non-profit, educational, civic, and faith-based organizations, appointed by the Secretary of State. The individuals representing counties and municipalities would be selected from different geographic regions of the state. In addition, no more than 14 members appointed to the commission could represent the same political party as determined by the member’s political party affiliation one year prior to the appointment.

The Commission would be charged with developing, recommending and assisting in the census outreach strategy to encourage full participation in the 2020 federal decennial census of population.

The census outreach strategy would include, but not be limited to, state agency initiatives to encourage participation in the 2020 Census; the establishment and support of school-based outreach programs and partnerships with non-profit community-based organizations; and a multi-lingual, multi-media campaign designed to ensure an accurate and complete count of New Jersey’s population. The Commission would be able to create and appoint subcommittees and must solicit participation from relevant experts and practitioners involved in census issues. Public input would be obtained from a minimum of three public hearings, held, one each, in the northern, central and southern parts of New Jersey.

“This Commission will help to ensure that traditionally undercounted populations, especially those in minority communities, will have a voice in the census,” said Lopez (D-Middlesex). “It is tremendously important that the state and the commission ensure that federal resources are allocated equitably to the communities that need them most.”

With this mind, the Commission would develop an outreach strategy to ensure that hard-to-count populations were counted and that immigrant populations understood the confidentiality of the census survey as well as the importance of completing the 2020 Census — regardless of citizenship status.

Targeting hard-to-count populations, including African Americans, Hispanics or Latinos, Asian Americans, non-native English speakers, the indigent, homeless, college students, children under age five, men ages 18-49, seniors, people displaced by natural disasters, the incarcerated, and members of the LGBTQ community, would be a significant part of the outreach strategy.

The bill would also require the outreach strategy to be coordinated through the Office of the Secretary of State, which would provide administrative support to the commission and coordinate with all state agencies, constitutional officers, and units of local government, to identify effective methods of outreach to New Jersey’s population and to provide resources to ensure the outreach program is successful and that all New Jersey residents are counted.

Under the bill, all state agencies would be required to inform the Office of the Secretary of State of their designated census coordinator and cooperate with the commission and provide support to the commission. Other entities of government, including other constitutional officers, the offices of the legislative and judicial branches, and units of local government, are directed to cooperate and provide all reasonable assistance to the commission.

“It’s critical that as many people as possible–from all walks of life–are represented in the census,” said Shavonda Sumter (D-Bergen, Passaic). “If they are not included, they can’t truly have a voice. If they don’t have a voice, they can’t be heard. If they are not heard, they are not always adequately advocated for and represented.”

The commission also would be required to submit an interim report to the Governor and the Legislature within six months of its organizational meeting containing its recommended outreach strategy to encourage full participation and to avoid an undercount in the 2020 Census. Thereafter, the commission would submit its final report to the Governor and the Legislature no later than June 30, 2019, specifying its recommended outreach strategy for implementation for the 2020 Census.

The bill was approved 51-21-2 today by the Assembly, and 37-0 by the Senate on June 25.