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Chicago Earmarks $2.7 Million For Census Outreach

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Lightfoot census funding announcement

Chicago Mayor Lori LIghtfoot at a Tuesday morning press conference to announce the city’s commitment to $2.7 million to help prepare “hard-to-count” communities for next year’s census.

Becky Vevea

Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced on Tuesday that the city will dedicate $2.7 million to its census outreach efforts for next year’s headcount.

“There’s $800 billion at stake and a decades’ worth of consequences,” Lightfoot said. “Our team will be working hard to ensure that all residents — let me underscore, all residents, even in the hardest to reach places — have the information and the comfort that they need to participate.”

According to immigration advocates, undocumented immigrants have grown suspicious of the census during months of threatened immigration raids and heated debate over the possible inclusion of a citizenship question in the 2020 headcount. Advocates say those fears also extend to legal permanent residents who live with — or have family members — who are undcoumented.

Lightfoot said that about half of Chicago’s residents are considered “hard to count,” and so the $2.7 million amount reflects about $2 spent on each resident in hard-to-reach community: immigrants and refugees fearful of the government, communities of color, children under the age of five, the elderly, veterans and citizens recently returning home from prison.

“Dismal” is how the mayor described Chicago’s 66% census participation rate in 2010 — the percentage of residents who filled out the questionnaire. She said 75% will be the goal for 2020.

Lightfoot did not offer specifics when asked about the timeline for disbursement of the $2.7 million. She said the money is already set aside and that the city will start a request-for-proposal process shortly. “We’re anxious to get the money into the hands of community-based organizations,” she said.

Lightfoot added that all city departments and services — such as schools, libraries, Chicago’s Department of Family and Support Services — would be involved in census outreach. She also announced a public awareness campaign led by the Chicago-based advertising agency FCB, which will provide its services pro bono.

The city will work “to complement and build upon” existing efforts in the county and state to boost census participation, Lightfoot said.

Illinois is in the process of doling out $20 million in grant money for census outreach. And Cook County has set aside $2 million for census outreach in “hard-to-count” communities. The county is also currently accepting applications for that grant money.

Also on Tuesday, the county announced that its 2020 Census program administrator would be The William Everett Group, “a certified African-American-owned and woman-owned business,” according to a county press release. The group will develop an outreach plan and oversee the work of local complete count committees.

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