Care About the Count

Filling out the census will boost our community, ensure adequate public funding and inspire a sense of civic duty.

by Reema Abi-Akar, Tri-County Regional Planning Commission
Everyone in your household should be counted in the 2020 census (but humans only, please). Census materials courtesy of DCC Marketing
Everyone in your household should be counted in the 2020 census (but humans only, please). Census materials courtesy of DCC Marketing

How much do you value public education? How about healthcare, public transit, affordable housing, veterans’ programs and roadways? 

While it seems impossible to put a price on these services, the public can help preserve them by filling out a 2020 Census form. The State of Illinois is expected to lose $1,400 per person, per year for 10 years for everyone not counted. An undercount could mean millions of dollars in losses and statewide ripple effects. For this reason, Governor J.B. Pritzker earmarked $29 million for census outreach efforts, the highest per-capita allocation in the country. 

We’re Counting on You
To ensure that everyone is counted once, only once, and in the right place, the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission (TCRPC) recently received a $500,000 grant from the Illinois Department of Human Services. Numerous agencies are working diligently to spread the word across DeWitt, Fulton, Livingston, Mason, Marshall, McLean, Stark, Tazewell and Woodford counties, with the Peoria Citizens Committee for Economic Opportunity (PCCEO) focusing on Peoria County outreach efforts. 

“[The census is] especially important this time for the State of Illinois because we are all concerned with the population decline,” notes Diana Pavley-Rock, Canton city clerk, who is spearheading Canton’s Complete Count Committee (CCC), a group comprised of local officials, school districts, hospitals and other key entities. “Being proactive is a much better approach than waiting until after the results come in and then trying to deal with possible low response rates.” 

The census count dictates the amount of funding allocated to public programs and infrastructure. With an inaccurate count, central Illinois could lose out on crucial funding. “Also, the political representation for the U.S. House is determined by the population numbers—so that’s another thing that’s at stake,” adds Alyssa Cooper, community planner for the McLean County Regional Planning Commission (MCRPC) in Bloomington and the lead for McLean’s CCC. With an undercount, Illinois could lose one or even two congressional seats, which means less political representation federally.

Cooper, Pavley-Rock and other key regional stakeholders are instrumental in helping spread the word about the census—a message that is carefully curated. TCRPC has enlisted DCC Marketing, based in Decatur, to market the census in a deliberate and meaningful way. DCC was selected from a pool of marketing consultants’ submissions in a region-wide selection process. “We want to work diligently in communicating the census and making sure every single person counts,” says Kara Demirjian Huss, DCC president. “It is truly an impact and a duty that we all have to make sure our communities are well served.” 

How It Works
Beginning in mid-March, members of the public will begin receiving a postcard in the mail with a code and hyperlink connected to their address. They will be invited to complete the secure nine-question form online, with the option of completing it by phone with over 50 language options. These are the simplest, fastest ways to complete the form. 

For those who do not immediately complete the census, there will be three more reminder mailings until Census workers begin going door to door. These in-person enumerators will only visit homes of those who have not filled out the census questionnaire. Throughout these 10 counties, there is a heightened focus on “hard-to-count” populations, including ethnic minorities, the elderly, small children, LGBTQ populations, those with limited English proficiency, people with disabilities, residents of rural areas and people who have limited internet access. TCRPC, the City of Canton, MCRPC, DCC Marketing and all other regional partners are making a concerted effort to reach everyone in the region.  

The Bottom Line
Ultimately, the census connects everyone and ensures representation, adequate funding and a sense of community pride. “It’s part of your civic duty,” Cooper explains. “The more accurate our data is, the better informed we can be for our community.” PM

Funded by the Illinois Department of Human Services. The contents are solely the responsibility of the author.

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