Metro-East News

Pritzker says Illinois will pull out all stops to ensure accurate census count in 2020

JB Pritzker signs executive order to bolster census efforts

Governor J.B. Pritzker signed an executive order “cementing” Illinois’ efforts to receive an accurate count during the 2020 Census and establishing a Census Office to ensure the state avoids an undercount.
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Governor J.B. Pritzker signed an executive order “cementing” Illinois’ efforts to receive an accurate count during the 2020 Census and establishing a Census Office to ensure the state avoids an undercount.

The state of Illinois will pull out all the stops to ensure its population isn’t under-counted during the 2020 census.

Governor J.B. Pritzker signed an executive order Thursday “cementing” Illinois’ efforts to receive an accurate count during the 2020 census and establishing a Census Office to ensure the state avoids an under-count.

Pritzker boasted that the executive order paired with the $29 million budgeted for census preparation and execution makes Illinois the largest per-person investment made in any state in the U.S.

“This is an aggressive effort because that is what the work ahead requires,” he said at a press conference Thursday. “We need to work as hard as we can to get an accurate count so Illinois will get the representation that we deserve.

“These resources will go directly to outreach and education, with grants to community organization across the state engaged in htis work, particularly in our hard-to-count communities.”

The 2020 Census could have “dramatic implications” for the state, Pritzker said, citing possible loss of congressional representation and “billions” in federal funding.

“Our representation in the United States House of Reps is on the line,” he said. “Illinois has lost six congressional seats since 1960 and there are experts who predict we will lose one or even two after the 2020 census.”

Pritzker criticized former Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration for insufficiently preparing the state for the upcoming census.

“The stakes couldn’t be higher and to be honest we’re behind in Illinois,” Pritzker said. “The previous administration failed to make this a priority, there were not enough resources concentrated on the count and little to no effort to prepare.”

He added that the state can’t rely on President Donald Trump’s administration due to an ongoing battle over a citizenship question that may be on the 2020 Census. Pritzker said Trump’s administration is doing “everything in its power” to ensure an undercount.

“It only exists to stoke fear in our immigrant communities. I want to be clear, we will not let him win,” he said. “Now and always Illinois will be a welcoming state for all people. We will not allow the census to be a weapon used against us.”

Education and outreach

The state’s $29 million investment and newly formed Census Office will be focused on outreach and education in the months leading up to the launch of the 2020 Census. Pritzker said focus will be aimed at the state’s “hard-to-reach” communities where online options won’t be enough.

“For our rural communities that means funding to reach more remote areas where pointing people to an online application is just not going to cut it,” he said.

Part of the executive order also formed a census advisory panel made up of “diverse” voices. Pritzker said this council will be bipartisan and “laser-focused” on outreach, education and grant opportunities.

Ten percent of the $29 million census staple will be directed at radio, television and online ads encouraging people to participate in the census, according to WSIU. The majority will go to community groups Pritzker said will be key to educating the public on how census data is used and what participants can expect.

Population dropping locally

In the metro-east, every county but Monroe saw population drops from 2017 to 2018, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. City wise, O’Fallon was the only major city in Southern Illinois that hasn’t lost population in the same time frame.

A past census report showed that Madison County’s population dropped by 0.4 percent, from 265,471 in 2017 to 264,461 in 2018, or by roughly 1,000 people. In St. Clair County the population drop was higher, losing more than 1,300 people between 2017 and 2018, or by 0.5 percent.

Monroe County’s population, on the other hand, grew from 34,159 in 2017 to 34,335 in 2018, or by roughly 0.5 percent.

The 2020 Census is set to kick off April 1, 2020.

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Kavahn Mansouri covers government accountability for the Belleville News-Democrat, holding officials and institutions accountable and tracking how taxpayer money is spent.
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