The 2020 U.S. Census form is open for Will County residents to fill out and be counted.
As of last week, about 36% of Will County residents had filled out the form, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Still, the bureau and local advocates said the novel coronavirus pandemic has forced them to change up their strategies to ensure a complete count this year.
Albert Fontenot, the associate director for decennial programs with the bureau said in a phone call with members of the news media last week the bureau was making adjustments to minimize health risks to residents and census workers.
"The plan for the 2020 census is resilient and is adaptive," he said.
Fontenot said that the pandemic actually underscores the need for an accurate count because the data is used to allocate resources for everything from hospitals to school lunch programs. He said the Census Bureau is working with homeless shelters and senior living communities to ensure people there still get counted even during the pandemic.
Verenise Alvarez, the Get Out the Count campaign director at the Spanish Community Center in Joliet, said she's had to adjust her strategy in raising awareness about the census. With the state taking measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, she said her biggest challenge is finding ways to help residents fill out the census form.
"Now more than ever we encourage people to respond online or over the phone," Alvarez said.
Census events have been canceled or postponed because of the pandemic. Alvarez said her team of staff and volunteers have halted their canvassing efforts to raise awareness, and now are turning to calling residents and digital media outreach.
Alvarez and her team also have focused on increasing the rate of response to the census in "hard to count" areas, or places that have a lower response rates, like in parts of Joliet and Crest Hill.
Ray Soliman, the mayor of Crest Hill, lauded the the U.S. Census Bureau and the Spanish Community Center for their "fantastic" efforts to reach out to residents. Still, he said, the pandemic made those efforts more difficult.
"It just couldn't have been a worse time for this to happen," Soliman said.
Still, he said the city is doing its part to promote the census through local media and via a reminder with residents' water bills.
"We’re going to continue with the push for people to take that ten minutes to fill it out," he said.
Information on the census form has been sent out in the mail, but for more, visit my2020census.gov.