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Officials urge residents to fill out census as deadline nears

  • Signs like this are scattered through southern Illinois, urging citizens to complete the 2020 census.

    Signs like this are scattered through southern Illinois, urging citizens to complete the 2020 census.
    Holly Kee photo

 
By Raymon Troncoso
Capitol News Illinois
rtroncoso@capitolnewsillinois.com
updated: 9/9/2020 1:17 PM

Gov. J.B. Pritzker is urging Illinoisans to get their 2020 census forms filled out and submitted, as the response rate and population estimates are tied to federal funding and the apportionment of seats in Congress.

According to United States Census 2020, 69.8% of Randolph County households have self-responded to the U.S. Census so far.

As of last week, Illinois was number 7 in terms of self-response, with a 70.0% rate. Illinois ranks 12th in total "enumeration," or the percentage of households in the state that have been counted in the census, at 89.8 percent. Among states with a population over 10 million, Illinois ranks first in both categories.

Illinois is on track to meet its 2010 response rate, but structural obstacles to filling out the census have kept response rates low in some parts of the state, including some rural counties.

Lack of access to broadband internet, the prevalence of P.O. boxes which the Census Bureau does not send forms to, and the difficulty census door-knockers have reaching rural residents all factor into some counties having response rates in the 30s and 40s, officials say.

Among the lowest response rates in Illinois currently are Alexander and Hardin counties in southern Illinois. Alexander's rate is 44.7% and Hardin County's rate is 31.9%, according to the Illinois Department of Human Services.

A low response rate can put millions of dollars in federal funding at risk across Illinois.

"The higher the count, the more of your federal tax dollars come back to Illinois instead of going to other states," Pritzker said. "Just a 1% undercount could result in the state losing over $195 million in federal funds at a time when we frankly need the full funding we can get from Washington (D.C.) the most."

That amounts to approximately $15,000-$20,000 lost in federal funding per person undercounted in the census.

The state has just 27 days to increase its response rates after the Trump administration shortened the deadline for reporting from the end of October to the end of September. A federal lawsuit to restore the original deadline is ongoing.

According to Pritzker, Illinois is one of 10 states that pays more in federal taxes than it receives in federal funding. A high response rate to the 2020 census can change that.

As the novel coronavirus pandemic wreaks havoc on the U.S. economy and tax revenue across the country and in Illinois, Pritzker stressed the importance of the census as it pertains to aid. Apportionment of federal funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act is partially based on 2010 census counts.

Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton also emphasized the need for Latino Illinoisans to participate in the census and pledged it will not ask their citizenship status.

"Your personal information will not be used against you in court or by any government agency like ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement).

"For far too long some members of our Latino community have been told to keep their doors closed and not be seen, but no more. You have the power, and you deserve to be seen and counted," she said.

The Trump administration attempted to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census, but those efforts were blocked by multiple federal courts last year. It does not appear on the final form, and any respondent information is kept confidential by law.

Illinoisans can fill out the census by mail, online at 2020census.gov, or by calling (844) 330-2020.