Chicago and Cook County officials along with advocacy organizations met Monday to discuss the local preparations for the 2020 Census.
Cook County Commissioner Stanley Moore says this census has been difficult to prepare for due to budget constraints and a legal fight over a proposed new question about citizenship.
“We’re actually behind the eight ball. I think we’re playing catch-up,” Moore said.
Millions of dollars have been identified for community outreach to answer questions about the process and to raise awareness about the need for a robust count.
The state has allocated $1.5 million, the county has allocated $2 million, and philanthropic groups have gathered another $1.5 million to fund efforts for the “complete count committee,” aimed at targeting populations like immigrants, African-Americans, renters, veterans, and the homeless.
“How are we going to count those folks? That’s where the boots on the ground, the enumerators come in, that’s where we come in,” said Moore.
Federal funding and political representation at all levels of government is decided based on these decennial census counts.
Peter Creticos, president of the Institute for Work and the Economy, warned that undercounting residents of any community will impact everyone.
“If there is an undercount in a Latino or African-American district, the only way they can go is out to those very communities that somehow feel they are isolated from this problem of an undercount and those communities, those white districts get diminished,” Creticos said.
In addition to Moore and Creticos, Cook County Commissioner Alma Anaya, 36th Ward Alderman Gilbert Villegas, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund or MALDEF, the Chicago Urban League, and others have been meeting for months trying to prepare for the 2020 Census.
For Moore, talking about the census is more than a passion, it’s a family legacy. His father has been working for the U.S. Census Bureau for 60 years.
“This is very near and dear to me.This is dinner talk at the table. My father has told me the importance of being counted. If you don’t understand that if you’re not counted, you don’t count, literally.”
That’s why Moore wants to make sure every resident in Cook County is included.
Maria Ines Zamudio covers city immigration for WBEZ. Follow her @mizamudio.