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What’s at stake for Chicago in the 2020 census

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The city is broadening efforts to make sure every resident responds to the census

Two tall office and condo towers frame another glassy downtown building in Chicago. Photo by Carmen Troesser

In an effort to help get an accurate census count, the mayor’s office rolled out a new website to better educate residents about how to participate and what city resources depend on full count.

The website, census2020.chicago.gov, serves as an explainer for residents who might be unfamiliar or concerned about what information will remain confidential. It details a timeline, ways to respond, and answers to questions residents might have.

In addition to a revamped website, a special committee was launched in April to analyze previous census data and recommend outreach strategies for 48 percent of Chicagoans living in hard-to-count communities on the South and West sides. The committee, which will meet monthly, consists of 30 community leaders, elected officials, advocates, organizers, and service providers. The committee will work on raising the response rate, which was one of the lowest in the country at 66 percent in 2010.

An accurate count is crucial, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in a statement on Tuesday. For each person missed in Chicago, the city could lose out on $1,400 and representation in Congress.

“The inclusion of every Chicagoan is essential to the 2020 census count, and over the next several months our team will be working hard to ensure that all residents, even in the hardest to reach places,” she said.

Some Illinois lawmakers were concerned that the Trump administration’s push for a citizenship question might affect the count in some hard-to-reach communities. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, Sen. Tammy Duckworth, and Rep. Jan Schakowsky all rallied against the inclusion of citizenship information.

“I cannot emphasize enough the importance of the 2020 Census to every American,” Schakowsky said in a statement. “There is so much at stake, with 132 programs that distribute $675 billion using Census data, ranging from Medicaid to federal direct student loans. Our communities rely on this funding, and we must ensure that all populations are represented and counted accurately. Our children, family, friends and neighbors depend on it.”