Linda Tyer: Even amid virus, city residents must fill out census

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PITTSFIELD — As mayor of the city of Pittsfield, I want to first acknowledge the glaring and difficult truths before discussing the census's significance in our city and why it's important for our future.

The last week has been an especially tough one for our city as the number of COVID-19 cases continue to rise. We are all adjusting to a new normal that seems to evolve every day. For Americans, and those around the world, COVID-19 has completely shifted our way of life. Our priorities and attention have taken on a new focus, and rightly so. Collectively, we are all committed to doing our part to preserving the safety and well-being of our loved ones and those around us. This is an essential action and it's the right thing to do.

With so much happening right now in the face of this ever-changing public health crisis, I understand that other tasks might seem mundane. Many of you may have already received the 2020 Census. For some, it may still be unopened. I get it. Adding one more thing to an ever-increasing to-do list during a time of great uncertainty can feel burdensome.

But here's why you shouldn't ignore it. The census is more than just a questionnaire. Once completed, it allows each of us to be counted, effectively establishing our presence. Collectively, that count is an essential gateway to Pittsfield securing vital resources and funding to keep our community moving forward. One particular source of funding which includes census data as one factor in its distribution formula is Community Development Block Grant funding, otherwise known as CDBG, from the Department of Housing and Development (HUD).

For 45 years, Pittsfield's CDBG grants have worked in concert with private and public sector funds to strengthen our city, while also serving as a critical revenue source for under-resourced and vulnerable members in our community. Over the course of the last five years these dollars provided 4,844 community members with assistance through human service agencies; rehabilitated 235 housing units; created 25 jobs; supported blight prevention through the demolition of 18 buildings; and provided 18 businesses with assistance to advance their operations.

Each of us — just by being counted — have played a role in these funds doing a lot of good in our community. Now, as we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, Pittsfield is among the many communities across the Commonwealth currently appealing to the federal government right now for additional flexibility to use CDBG funds in this fight. Resources that could be used toward critical purposes such as health services, food pantries, senior meals programs, and more.

While we all continue to do our part and stay at home, completing the census is an action we can take now to help our community rebound. We all look forward to the day when we will be able to resume life as we once knew it, but we know that this is a marathon. We are committed to not leaving anyone behind, so be counted. Together, our rebound will be stronger. Stay safe and be well.

Linda Tyer is the mayor of Pittsfield.

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