A massive outreach effort is underway in Chinatown to inform residents about the importance of filling out the 2010 U.S. Census form. NY1's Rebecca Spitz filed the following report.
In Chinatown, participation in the 2000 U.S. Census was somewhere between 46 and 60 percent.
"When you get something in the mail and you don’t know what it is and it’s not addressed to you and it’s in a language that you really don’t understand, a lot of times people just put it aside or throw it away," said City Councilwoman Margaret Chin.
Asian Americans for Equality, or AAFE, is hoping for a much higher count this time around. It says the Asian Pacific American community is the fastest growing one in the city and wants the numbers to back that up.
"There's this gap between knowing about the Census and filling it out and mailing back," said Peter Gee of the AAFE.
Using a script, AAFE volunteers have spent hours calling some 20,000 residents of Chinese descent in in Manhattan's Chinatown as well as the Flushing neighborhood of Queens.
"The youth are so important is that they're able to outreach one-on-one and give this 'touch' to community members in the language that they speak," Gee said.
The young volunteers, who are donating their time during spring break to make the calls, say they're doing it because it's important.
"This is a good opportunity to develop our leadership," said one AAFE volunteer.
Since it's a big job, the Asian American Federation is also doing its part by putting up ads on buses, subways and commuter vans.
"I’ve seen a lot of enthusiasm, there’s a lot of interest and desire to participate in the census," said AAF Census Programs Director Howard Shih.
Shih says it's important the community knows and trusts the organizations doing the outreach and education, because they often don't trust the U.S. government
"In fact it says here that immigration status is not asked on the Census form," Shih said.
Hoping that everyone in Chinatown who gets a U.S. Census form fills it out and sends it back, Councilwoman Chin says she is already thinking about how the money could be used.
"We could benefit from more housing, better transportation services, improve the schools, funding for healthcare facilities, so every aspect of our lives are affected by this resource," Chin said.
For more information on the U.S. Census, visit http://2010.census.gov/2010census/.