Step up to make sure every Chicagoan is counted in the 2020 Census

Computer kiosks and other innovative ideas would help the city reach “hard to count” groups like immigrants and the homeless.

SHARE Step up to make sure every Chicagoan is counted in the 2020 Census
Supreme Court Considers Whether Trump Administration Can Include Citizenship Question On Census

The crowd outside the Supreme Court as it considered the Trump administration’s case to include a citizenship question on the 2020 Census.

Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

For Illinois and Chicago, tens of millions in federal dollars are riding on an accurate population count in the 2020 Census.

Every uncounted Illinois resident will cost our cash-strapped state $18,000 in federal funding — for everything from transportation projects to schools to crime-victim assistance, experts tell us.

Every uncounted resident endangers our state’s political representation in Congress, as well, since seats in the U.S. House are allocated based on population.

Chicago, in particular, must do a far better job of convincing residents that their participation in the census is critical to the city’s future. Ten years ago, Chicago managed only an abysmal 66% participation rate in the census, among the worst rates for all big cities.

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So it’s a matter of “all hands on deck,” as Mayor Lori Lightfoot told business leaders last week, if Chicago is to achieve a participation rate of at least 75%, which is the national average.

To that end, the city is spending $500,000 on efforts aimed at counting the so-called “hard to count” groups such as immigrants and the homeless — and looking to corporate Chicago to match that $500,000. We urge the business community to step up.

Every dollar spent will help ensure that Chicago gets its fair share of federal money and keeps every seat the city is entitled to hold in Congress.

Next year’s census will be conducted online for the first time, and so City Hall hopes to put a particular emphasis on supporting tech-based projects. There likely will be census kiosks in office buildings, for example, so that people who lack access to computers and the internet can still easily participate in the census.

The city is issuing a request-for-proposals for projects this week. We hope to see other innovative ideas, especially ways to encourage great participation by immigrants.

The Trump administration earlier this year tried to include a citizenship question on the census, a move the Supreme Court shot down. But the administration may have succeeded in its intent all the same, which was to create a chilling effect among both documented and undocumented immigrants.

That could be trouble for Illinois, home to about 1.8 million foreign-born people. The vast majority of them — 1.72 million — live in the Chicago region.

Chicago and Illinois cannot afford for anyone to go uncounted.

Send letters to letters@suntimes.com.

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