Chicago kicks off 2010 Census

April 8, 2009 (CHICAGO) Census questionnaires will not go out until March 2010, but elected officials urged people to get the word out to the often-undercounted poor and minority residents. Population figures compiled by the Census every 10 years help determine the distribution of federal funds and the setting of political boundaries.

"If we shortchange any part of the area, you're really shortchanging yourself," Daley said. "Everyone's reluctant to tell the government anything ... We have to reassure people that it is confidential."

In 2000, only 55 percent of Chicagoans mailed in their forms -- one of the worst return rates among the nation's major cities.

Mistrust of the government is one of the leading causes for non-participation, said Stanley D. Moore, Chicago Regional Census Bureau director.

For every person in Illinois who does not send their Census questionnaire back, the state misses out on hundreds of dollars per year, he estimated. The Brookings Institution puts that figure at $12,000 per person over the next ten years.

The Joyce Foundation announced Wednesday that it and nine other groups have pledged a combined $1 million to improve Census participation in poor, minority, rural and high-rise communities.

"This is the first time that I was able to get foundations to actually give money to organizations to help me take the census," Moore said.

The bureau is targeting areas with a history of low participation for extra outreach, said Moore, who is also asking elected officials to form volunteer committees to focus on religious or ethnic groups, among others, in their own area.

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