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Illinois Census Advisory Panel

The Illinois Census Advisory Panel meets to discuss the state’s census outreach efforts on Friday.

Illinois Awards $20 Million in Census Outreach Grants

The funds will be used by organizations to reach “hard to count” populations

The state of Illinois announced on Friday the recipients of nearly $20 million in grants to groups that will help increase participation in the upcoming 2020 census.

The money will be used to ensure that all residents in Illinois get counted, especially groups that have historically been undercounted including minorities, rural residents, young children, and immigrants.

“Receiving this grant is an important victory for the immigrant community,” said Lawrence Benito, executive director of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR). “Given the concerns that we face at the federal level, the need for people to be counted is extremely important.”

About two dozen groups got the call from the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS), the agency doling out the census outreach money. Awards ranged from $50,000 to over $3 million.

The $20 million in grants are the largest census investment made by any state, according to a press release from IDHS. Per the state’s grantmaking process, ICIRR and the other “regional intermediaries” will evaluate and subgrant those funds to smaller groups on the ground doing the census outreach.

IDHS officials also said in the press release that one of the 12 regions — the Northwest part of the state that includes LaSalle, Rock Island, and Whiteside counties — was not awarded a grant in this round of funding “due to the lack of an applicant that met the necessary criteria.” The region will be given another opportunity to apply for funds from the state in the coming weeks.

Lawmakers and organizations say a robust count — in every region in Illinois — is essential in 2020: at stake are up to two congressional seats and billions in federal funding.

Also on Friday, Illinois’ Census Advisory Panel met to discuss the progress of the state’s census outreach efforts.

State Rep. Andre Thapedi, D-Chicago, announced the creation of a new census office on the South Side, located at 7050 S. King Dr., at one of his district offices. He said he and his staff plan to provide educational materials about the census and help community groups in his district apply for the census subgrants.

“All of the definitions of what ‘hard to count’ is — that’s exactly what we have in my district,” Thapedi said. “I felt that it was my duty … to do something proactive, and that’s why I opened up the office.”

He and others on the Census Advisory Panel also expressed concerns that smaller groups vying for the subgrants from the regional intermediaries are finding it difficult to meet the requirements of the state’s Grant Accountability and Transparency Act (GATA).

Thapedi said he plans to explore legislation that exempts subgrantees from GATA restrictions for the census grants.

Esther Yoon-Ji Kang is a reporter for WBEZ’s Race, Class and Communities desk. Follow her on Twitter @estheryjkang.

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