While much of Will County has responded to the 2020 U.S. Census, activists are focusing on improving the response rate in “hard to count” areas.
As of this week, about 72% of Will County residents have been accounted for, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The county has outpaced the state as a whole, which has a 65% response rate.
But Census Bureau data also shows that areas with much lower response rates include parts of Joliet’s East Side. Response rates in that area hover between about 39% and 49%, and one census tract in Crest Hill has a response rate of about 32%.
These are areas that local activists have already identified as difficult to count.
Verenise Alvarez, the Get Out the Count campaign coordinator at the Spanish Community Center, said she and her volunteers have focused on these areas in Joliet and Crest Hill since last year to encourage residents to fill out the form. They said that accurate census data is vital so Will County residents can access millions of dollars in federal aid.
“We still have a long way to go,” Alvarez said. “Ideally we’d like to reach 100%.”
But, she added, if all tracts in Will County were to surpass their response rates from 2010, then “that would be absolutely amazing.”
Even though the COVID-19 pandemic has forced the campaign to turn mostly to phone banking and digital media, Alvarez said she’s been trying to distribute information where she can.
The campaign is partnering with the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, which has been hosting census caravans in other areas such as Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood. Alvarez and her campaign will be hosting a caravan on Monday in Joliet to encourage residents to fill out the census.
Alvarez said the caravan is “like a parade” to get out the message while maintaining social distancing. The caravan will take place between 11 a.m. and noon on the city’s East Side.
Those interested in volunteering can contact Alvarez at 815-407-7044 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.