Illinois census outreach groups await delayed state funds

Some of the groups tasked with helping ensure that Illinois gets a good turnout for the 2020 census haven't received their state funding yet.

Census advocates worry that the lag in funding the groups' efforts could hurt the state's showing in the 10-year count, which determines how many U.S. House seats each state gets and how to distribute billions of federal dollars to local communities.

Only few of the nine regional intermediary outreach groups in the Chicago region have received the state funding they need to take on the mammoth task of trying to ensure that every resident participates or is accounted for in this year's census, the Chicago Tribune reported.

The stakes are high, as Illinois has lost population in the last few years and experts predict that it could lose one or even two congressional seats.

Gov. J. B. Pritzker, a Democrat, previously blamed his Republican predecessor for the delay. Gov. Bruce Rauner's term in office was dominated by budget wars that overshadowed other issues.

Pritkzer announced last year that he would allocate $29 million for census outreach.

“We need to get the funds out the door as soon as possible,” he said at the time.

The Illinois Department of Human Services said its goal is to get the money out as soon as possible.

Several groups that haven't received their state funding yet have pushed on, regardless.

The Carole Robertson Center for Learning, a nonprofit, recently hosted an event for parents with a worker from the U.S. Census Bureau.. The group plans to use laptops and tablets once they receive funding.

Some have focused on reaching groups of people who have historically been difficult to count, including immigrants.

Organizers recently held a two-day training course for community organizers at Casa Michoacán in Pilsen, which is a heavily Mexican neighborhood in Chicago.

“We need everyone to understand and know the importance of the census and know why we should all be counted,” Oswaldo Alvarez, one of the state's census co-coordinators, told the crowd in Spanish.

The Census Bureau will start sending mailings to households across the country by March 12.