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Advisory Panel Discusses Timeline For Census Outreach In Illinois

Initial plan calls for Illinois to get $25 million in grants to local governments and community groups to begin outreach efforts in October.

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Members of the state’s Census Advisory Panel, along with their staff, convened for the first time to discuss the strategy and timeline for Illinois’ census outreach plan.

Members of the state’s Census Advisory Panel, along with their staff, convened for the first time to discuss the strategy and timeline for Illinois’ census outreach plan.

Esther Yoon-Ji Kang/WBEZ

Following Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker’s executive order last week, his new Census Advisory Panel met for the first time Friday to discuss the state’s strategy and timeline for census outreach. The 2020 census is about nine months away.

The meeting was led by Deputy Gov. Sol Flores and Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) Secretary Grace Hou. The panel heard the IDHS’s plan for census outreach and discussed strategies for reaching hard-to-count communities in the state.

After the meeting, Flores said that the census is a priority for Pritzker.

“What he has charged us with is to count every single person,” she said. “He has said to me, ‘Sol, if there’s a rock and there’s someone underneath it, I want you to move it and count that person.’”

The state has appropriated $29 million for census outreach in its budget for fiscal year 2020. According to Flores, about 10% of the outreach funds will be spent on television, radio and online advertising. A small amount will pay for administrative costs, she said. Most of the funds, about $25 million, will go to local governments and community groups who will encourage residents to participate in the headcount.

According to Pritzker’s executive order, the call for bids from local groups is to go out on or before July 31. After a review process, IDHS is aiming to notify grantees about their awards in mid-September, with Oct. 15 as a target date for groups to begin implementation.

The 12-member census panel, which plans to meet monthly through July 2020, is made up of mostly legislators. According to Flores, the members will play an advisory role and will not participate in evaluating the bids from community groups and local governments.

“We’re serving as an advisory panel, giving ideas, giving our input, just assuring that … we really get a good count in Illinois,” said Rep. Lisa Hernandez, D-Cicero. She added that the panel includes members who “have been involved with the census discussion for a while, so I think it’s been very thoughtfully selected.”

The state has yet to fill the two census co-coordinator positions, which are part of Pritzker’s executive order. The co-coordinators will lead the state’s census office, which will be responsible for outreach strategy and coordination.

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