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Dear Friend,

The last few weeks have been incredibly difficult for everyone. The COVID-19 pandemic has already claimed the lives of hundreds of New Yorkers and put thousands more in the hospital. And we haven’t seen the worst of this yet. 

We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to all those individuals on the frontlines of this battle, including doctors, nurses, supermarket and pharmacy workers, law enforcement officers, postal workers, MTA staff, the fire department, EMTs and so many more

Yet even with these challenges, there is still important work for Citizens Union to do. We need to ensure we have a fair and accurate census count, and that New Yorkers can vote in this year’s election safely, without spreading the virus further.
We remind you that you can get daily updates on what New York State is doing to support New Yorkers, manage the crisis and stem the spread of the COVID-19 by visiting HERE.

In the meantime, we will miss seeing you in person at our breakfast briefs, Spring for Reform, and other CU events. However, know that we plan to offer these events virtually (check out the link to last week’s Breakfast Brief below) so you can participate from the safety of your own home. Stay tuned for details on other upcoming opportunities to connect virtually!
On behalf of all of us at Citizens Union, our Board and staff, please know that we are thinking of you and your families, and hoping you are all healthy and safe. We thank you for your continued support.


Betsy Gotbaum
Executive Director, Citizens Union/Citizens Union Foundation


Policy Update

Practice Social Distancing &


As census forms were hitting mailboxes, the world was in the midst of grappling with an unprecedented crisis. However, it’s vital that we not lose sight of the crucial importance of the census. We need all New Yorkers to be counted to ensure that we get our fair share of federal funding.  

In fact, the COVID-19 pandemic reinforces the importance of the census, which determines the number of hospital beds, and health resources communities need. An accurate count could not be more important.

That’s why we called on all New Yorkers to fill out their census form immediately. We encourage them to fill out the census online or over the phone. Last week we hosted our first virtual event on the impact of COVID-19 on the census count. At this event, Julie Menin, Director of the NYC Census and Amy Torres, Director at the Chinese American Planning Council described how the city is conducting census outreach, and how community-based organizations are encouraging their members to fill out the census, during this crisis. Watch HERE.
In addition, on March 27, CU Policy Director, Rachel Bloom, provided online civics lessons on the census via Facebook live – two sessions for students learning remotely – one for elementary school students, and one for middle school students. You can watch the sessions on the CU Facebook page under the videos tab or by clicking HERE.
Completing your census and making sure others do, too, is a great way to help your community get its fair share while practicing social distancing. If you haven’t filled out your census, do so today at You don’t have to wait to get your mailer to do so, go ahead and do it today!

Protecting the Integrity of Elections

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic it is critical that strong, decisive action be taken to ensure that New Yorkers feel safe while exercising their right to vote this year. Elections must go forward. It is crucial to maintain our democratic principles during times of emergency, but we also must be creative to take measures to protect public health.

We are pleased that the elections scheduled for April 28th have been postponed and will be consolidated with the state and federal primaries now scheduled for June 23rd. Also, we advocate that all registered voters who want to vote by mail be allowed to do so for all elections in 2020. You can read our full recommendations for how to proceed with this year’s elections here.

Over the past year, New York has passed a number of important reforms to protect and expand the right to vote. This unprecedented public health crisis warrants further action. We look forward to working with our partners in the legislature and the Board of Elections to ensure that all New Yorkers can safely vote in 2020.


Save The Date

Spring for Reform – Now Virtual

Due to COVID-19, Citizens Union has decided to present Spring for Reform – Doing Democracy: Civic Engagement in the Social Media Age VIRTUALLY.  Please continue to SAVE THE DATE and stay tuned for more details and how you can support the event.

We’re very grateful to both Dr. Eitan Hersh, author of Politics is for Power  and State Senator Zellnor Myrie, one of our Senators responsible for many of the recent electoral reform victories, for agreeing to participate virtually on May 13.  More details about the event and our speakers available HERE


CU in the News


Gotham Gazette

Never has it been more life-or-death to know exactly what’s going on in New York City and State government. Gotham Gazette has shifted focus to cover the many impacts of the coronavirus outbreak and its fallout, from public health to education, housing, voting, budgets, and more. As always, Gotham Gazette is focused on informing the public and holding government officials accountable. Our reporting is more important than ever and your support is needed to make it happen.  See some examples of our COVID-19 reporting below and please, if you can make a gift of any amount today.

March 26 by Samar Khurshid
3/24/20 by Ethan Geringer-Sameth
3/23/20 by Ethan Geringer-Sameth
3/18/20 by Samar Khurshid
3/30/20 by Carol Kellermann
3/24/20 with Alex Zimmerman of Chalkbeat NY

Thank You!

Stacey Cumberbatch, CU Board Member

Stacey Cumberbatch joined the Citizens Union Board in 2018 and in that short time, has already made a big impact! Stacey is both a very active board member and member of our Local Candidates Committee. Professionally, Stacey is an adjunct professor at Columbia’s School for International Public Policy and Affairs. In addition, she has a long history of public service to New York, serving in the city and state government for 30 years, including such roles as: the Commissioner for the City’s Department of Administrative Services; a 2010 census coordinator; the Chief of Staff for the NYC Housing Authority; the Chief of Staff for the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Legal Affairs and the Assistant Attorney General in charge of Statewide Consumer Mediation. Stacey joined CU because of our reputation as being a “”touchstone” for good government in New York” and because in her many public service positions, she has worked with some other CU Board Members and our Executive Director, Betsy Gotbaum. Stacey believes that the Voters Directories are one of CU’s greatest contributions to citizens of New York. In these directories CU vets candidates and provides background information beyond the endorsement.  Stacey believes the most important issues that CU advocates for include: reforming ethics around elections in the state; making voting accessible and advocating for campaign finance reform. Stacey will help in the implementation of both Ranked Choice Voting and Early Voting in 2021. Thank you, Stacey, for adding such a rich background of public service to our ranks and for your membership and support! If you would like to help with our important work like Stacey, please become a member today.


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