Pioneer Valley Complete Count Committee - September Meeting Notes
Tuesday - September 17, 2019
Pioneer Valley Planning Commission
60 Congress Street, Springfield
Present: Pat Beaudry, Molly Goren-Watts, Malcom Ragen, Lori Tanner, PVPC; Marie Waechter, WGBY; Brianna Sunryd and Athena O’Keeffe, Town of Amherst; Geoffrey Naunheim, United Way of Hampshire County; Michael Moriarty, OneHolyoke CDC; James Thompson, City of Northampton; William Palmer, John Barr, Lida Harkins, Uri Molina, Secretary of the Commonwealth; Susan Hagen, US Census Bureau; Nicole Young, United Way of Hampden County; Elvis Mendez, Neighbor to Neighbor; Kareem Kibodya, Congressman Richard Neal’s Office; Paul Robbins, Paul Robbins Associates; Gerry McCafferty, Springfield Housing; Melissa White, Valley Opportunity Council; Sara Bedford, Jewish Family Services of Western Mass
Note Taker: Pat Beaudry
10:00-10:15 Introductions and Background
Pat welcomes group and explains the role of a regional complete count committee (CCC) - primarily serving as a conduit between the Statewide Complete Count Committee chaired by the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA) and the local complete count committees currently being formed up by municipalities. PVCC will, through Pat Beaudry, bring questions, comments and concerns to the Statewide CCC, and likewise communicate what activities, approaches, collateral and other resources are being developed and made available at that statewide level.
The intention is between the statewide and regional CCC’s best practices and materials will be created that local CCC’s will be able to simply take and run with in their respective communities.
Susan Hagen and John Barr provide contrast from 2010 Census on which both worked. Differences from last decennial census include fear of government due to political climate by undocumented residents and those living in illegal housing situations, more difficult recruitment for Census positions because of low unemployment, and 2020 being the first year residents will be invited to self respond online.
Molly Goren-Watts noted that a MA Census Equity Fund grant from their first round made our convening the PV CCC possible, as well as our ability to bring on Paul Robbins of Paul Robbins Associates to facilitate the meeting’s discussion about barriers for hard to count communities (College students, Low-Income and Homeless residents, New Americans and English as a Second Language residents, Rural residents, among others), which will guide the development of a strategic outreach plan for the PV CCC, which will include assessing organizations’ engagement assets and determine best practice tactics for these communities.
Uri Molina gave an overview of the Statewide Complete Count Committee’s work including working with MIRA, the MA Council of Churches, MA Library Association, as examples of statewide groups being tapped to develop statewide strategies regional and local CCC’s can deploy in their own communities.
Lida Harkins expanded on her outreach to ‘Snow Birds’ as part of Secretary Galvin’s team’s work to make sure seniors who spend the winter months away are aware of the importance of their being counted where they spend most of their year.
10:15-11:45 Facilitated Discussion on Strategic Outreach Plan
- Barriers to reaching hard to count populations
- Organizational assets
Paul Robbins kicks off facilitated discussion by saying the key to a successful complete count effort will be identifying the barriers to participation for hard to count populations, what messages will motivate, resonate, and/or ease those residents concerns, as well as recruiting trusted messengers within those respective communities to deliver them.
Sara Bedford, New Americans Program Director at Jewish Family Services of Western Mass notes fear of government, language and technology barriers will impact immigrant and refugees’ participation levels if left unaddressed.
Gerry McCafferty speaking to her expertise in homelessness work said she has a lot of questions regarding this unique population including how will people without mailing addresses receive the mid-March postcard inviting them to self report, where do they self report themselves if they are couch surfing or living in an encampment with no formal address, and how do we communicate the safety of reporting more people at a household than is legally allowed.
Brianna Sunyrd is still seeking clarification on how college students are counted on campus, but shares concerns about off campus participation due to the frequency of illegal housing situations many students live in.
Additionally, the group at large felt a fundamental lack of understanding what the census is and why it matters could negatively impact participation rates if left unaddressed.
Marie Waechter noted that in 2010 she thought it was impactful to have PV CCC members secure opportunities to address groups during their meetings rather than trying to create develop PV CCC events, because that invitation to speak suggested the organizers trusted that speaker.
Elvis said Neighbor to Neighbor has had some success engaging families through schools. Paul Robbins noted he’s done quite a bit of that type of outreach via a different client and said schools’ text messaging systems could boost communication if we are able to secure school departments’ support.
Melissa White suggests PV CCC members consider setting up computer banks where folks can come in and complete their census with assistance from trained helpers if necessary. Lida noted many students have community service hours requirements and might be able to help with those efforts.
John Barr notes that Census job fairs are a great first touch on community organizations because you are offering a resource before asking for help. It also helps ensure solid local people are hired who can use their standing within their given community to do the best possible job getting everyone counted.
Mike Moriarty said his public engagement team at OneHolyoke CDC will be working hard to engage the lowest participation census tracts in Holyoke from the 2010 Census, but also wants to make sure local residents are hired for Census jobs and needs clarification from Susan on how those hired will be deployed to ensure they actually stay working in the communities from which they’re hired.
Uri says many CCC include local chambers and other professional associations who can incorporate and disseminate PV CCC messaging to their customers and memberships.
Melissa added to Uri’s comments by suggesting the PVTA, WIC and other service providers be brought into the group.
The group briefly discussed who was missing from today’s meeting. Those mentioned included: more municipal officials, faith based groups like Interfaith Council of Greater Springfield and the Pastors Council, rural-centric groups like Hilltown CDC and Gateway Hilltowns Collaborative, the Coalition to End Hunger, Springfield Partners for Community Action, Quabog Hill Community Coalition, Hospitals and Medical Providers at large - especially Ann Marie Golden, New England Farm Workers, Holyoke Safe Neighborhood Assoc., and Community Television
Pat noted that while anyone who wants to participate in the PV CCC in welcomed, some of those named as missing links may make more sense participating in their local CCC’s rather than the regional, though their insights can certainly help inform region-wide approaches and strategies.
While postcards sent out in mid-March inviting households to self-report online or by phone will include a PIN they can enter to streamline the Census completion process, it is NOT required to complete the Census. The Census will be available in 12 languages online and by phone and MIRA is working on recruiting translators of languages represented in MA not included in that 12 to facilitate completion.
11:45-11:55 Grant Funding Options
- Mass Equity Fund - Deadline October 25th
- Secretary Galvin’s Office - TBD
Molly suggests any organization interested in applying to the MA Census Equity Fund’s second round of grant funding check in with her so we can potentially coordinate larger regional bids. Nonprofits are eligible for engagement work through this philanthropic fund.
Uri and John noted Secretary Galvin’s office is developing an RFP to distribute the $2.5mm allocated in the FY’2020 state budget and will be released in the next few months.
11:55-12:00 Wrap Up and Next Steps
Elvis shared that tomorrow (9/18) there will be a messaging training for the Census with MassCount at 6:00 PM at their Springfield office on 191 Chestnut St. 3C.
Paul will digest the barriers and approaches discussed and follow up to better understand PV CCC members’ assets and abilities.
Pat said he would send out a monthly e-newsletter with important updates, timelines, funding and employment opportunities, and new collateral as it becomes available.
Pat will also send out a Doodle poll in short order to get next month’s PV CCC meeting on the books.