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Why Chicago’s 2020 Census matters for vulnerable neighborhoods

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“Stand up, fight back, be counted,” Lightfoot said

A neighborhood with a sidewalk, green grass, and two-story brick homes. There are trees and manicured lawns. Shutterstock

When it comes to the 2020 Census, Chicago isn’t messing around. In October, the mayor announced it would invest $2.7 million into the counting effort which is vital for getting necessary federal funding and representation in Congress. That’s the largest amount of funding the city has ever committed to the Census.

The 2020 Census is vital in getting necessary federal funding and accurate electoral representation. About 48 percent of Chicagoans are considered to be living in “hard to count” communities which include those who might be afraid to participate, families of color, elderly people, and people who experience housing instability or homelessness, according to the mayor’s office.

Most recently, the mayor’s office announced that $500,000 would go to community-based organizations which would help with education and engagement. The city is currently searching for nonprofits and other local organizations that can help with the count. By paying for community-based groups to do outreach on the ground, there’s more trust established, Lightfoot said. The goal is to have residents feel more comfortable answering the Census.

At a moment when many Chicago immigrants and refugees fear government, Mayor Lightfoot wants to make it clear she stands with those communities. “It is important we push back against ICE being weaponized,” she said in October.

Beginning in April, residents will be able to fill out the Census online, so part of the funds will be spent on technology and ensuring folks have access to internet at libraries and other public spaces. The majority of the investment will be paying for community-based organizations that will be doing outreach on the ground. That way, there’s more trust, Lightfoot said.

The city is making a huge effort to rebrand the Census, too. A new campaign, designed pro-bono by advertising agency FCB, will help educate residents about what the Census is, why it’s important for the city, and that it’s safe.

The core message? Participating in the Census is the “ultimate form of protest.” Lightfoot said, “Stand up, fight back, be counted.”