Local efforts to raise awareness about the 2020 U.S. Census are in full swing as groups work to educate the public on the importance of getting counted.
Community organizations and government officials have focused on informing residents about the census, especially in undercounted areas.
Data from the 2010 U.S. Census showed parts of Crest Hill and Joliet, specifically the near west side by the Des Plaines River and in and around the downtown area, qualified as “hard-to-count.” That means 73%, or fewer, of residents in those areas responded to the census that year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
The Joliet Area Complete Count Committee held a meeting Thursday to give updates and share ideas of how to spread the word about the census.
Verenise Alvarez, the Get Out the Count campaign director for the Spanish Community Center in Joliet, said she’s aiming to recruit about 100 volunteers to canvas neighborhoods in hard-to-count areas starting next month.
The purpose is to inform residents about the importance of filling out the census questionnaire when they receive it. Alvarez said that because her group is not a part of the U.S. Census Bureau, they won’t be collecting residents’ information while canvassing.
“We’re out there in the community,” she said. “We’re here to inform and to also provide support.”
She also said residents trying to fill out the census questionnaire can receive assistance at places such as the Spanish Community Center and the Joliet Public Library.
Alvarez also said volunteers will try to assure certain populations, such as residents without legal authorization to live in the U.S., that their personal information would be kept secure by the U.S. Census Bureau. She also wants to remind them that a proposed census question about citizenship that worried immigration activists has been blocked by the U.S. Supreme Court and won’t appear on the 2020 form.
Moreover, she stressed that getting an accurate count is key to securing about $219 million in government aid each year from programs that use the data.
Alvarez said the first wave of census forms will be sent out to residents starting March 12. Also, April 1 has been designated by the bureau as “Census Day,” in order to remind residents to have their questionnaire filled out by then.
Alvarez said anyone interested in volunteering to canvas can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. The first training session for canvassers is at 5 p.m. Monday at the Spanish Community Center, 309 N. Eastern Ave. in Joliet.