Community groups work to get residents counted before 2020 Census deadline

Wednesday, September 9, 2020
Community groups raising census awareness among underrepresented groups
With the US Census deadline nearing on September 30, Chicago area community groups are working to make sure all residents are counted.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- With the US Census deadline nearing on September 30, Chicago area community groups are helping to make sure groups that have been traditionally undercounted get counted this year.

Visitors to the Center on Halsted in the Lakeview neighborhood can get information and use the cyber center to fill out a census questionnaire.

Jolie Holliman, the Center's senior director of diversity, equity and inclusion, said the count matters as LGBTQ families traditionally undercounted.

RELATED: ABC 7 Chicago to support 2020 Census efforts with virtual phone bank

"Eight hundred and eighty-three billion dollars of federal funding goes towards social services and LGBTQ families rely on those dollars, so it's important that we respond to the census this year," Holliman said.

LGBTQ community urged to complete census, despite disappointment in questions

While there has been disappointment with the census questions in the LGBTQ community, answering the current questions matter, said Jolie Holliman of Center on Halsted.

She said there has been disappointment with the census questions in the LGBTQ community.

"Please let us be able to show our full selves on here," she said.

Holliman said a more inclusive census would have questions about gender identity and sexual orientation, but for now, answering the current questions matter.

"We have to still use the voice that we have and respond," Holliman said. "If we don't respond, we miss an opportunity."

The US Census reports other communities are also underrepresented, like Latinos and African Americans.

2020 Census efforts underway in 'hard to count' communities

"We're out to educate block by block to make sure we get our number count up."

In Cicero, Berwyn and parts of Chicago, Spanish-speaking Erie Neighborhood House volunteers urge residents to fill out Census forms --making sure they understand the Census does not track citizenship and the count impacts resources for their children.

"If we don't count them now, we will be losing a lot of funding for our kids for 10 years," said Elva Serna, of Erie Neighborhood House.

Volunteers with Counting on Chicago Coalition urge residents in the Austin neighborhood to be counted so there are adequate resources for seniors and young people.

"We are just trying to leverage every funding dollar we can to ease the burden that the state would have in terms of generating the revenue necessary to support these areas in greatest need," said Donald Dew, with Counting on Chicago Coalition.

Counting on Chicago Coalition is also working to make sure people with disabilities are counted in this years' census so funding for their vital programs and support is available in the years ahead.

Census participation in Chinatown below city, state, national average, CASL says

The Chinese American Service League has been hard at work raising awareness about the impact the census has on its programs.

The Chinese American Service League said participation in the census in Chinatown is about 10 to 20 percent below the city, state, and national average - and there are a number of reasons for that.

"One is a lack of understanding of what the census is," said Jered Pruitt, Chief Operating Officer at Chinese American Service League. "I think the second is the question around what data the government collects, and so there's a little bit of that trust issue, especially with a lot of minority communities being immigrants themselves, or even though they may be naturalized citizens, they came as immigrants. And then I think the third is not understanding how the census impacts them directly."

CASL has been hard at work raising awareness about the impact the census has on its programs. The organization relies, in part, on federal, state, and local funding that is determined by the census.

Every 10 years, the Census gives communities the chance to receive the funding they need.

That means programs for seniors (including grocery and meal services), programs for children (including pre-K and other early childhood education opportunities), and various services for families (including energy assistance).

With many of these programs - and the more representation in the census - the greater the funding and the more people who benefit.

"The census has a direct impact impact on our lives," Pruitt said. "It's not just about representation in Congress because that's sometimes a bit more of a disconnect for people. It's actually showing them this is how it's going to impact your life and your family's life directly."

CASL is partnered with ABC 7 for our virtual phone bank. CASL staff is standing by to take your call - especially if you need a Mandarin or Cantonese speaker, you can select that option, and you'll be routed to the folks at CASL.

The group is hoping to take some of the mystery out of what is an important civic duty.