Gov. Pritzker, Illinois delegation scrambling to grab federal dollars ‘owed’ due to census goof

The Census Bureau bungle deprives Republicans of a main attack line: blaming Pritzker and Democrats for Illinois population loss — since, it turns out, the population grew.

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A U.S. Census Bureau form.

Illinois is scrambling to recoup federal dollars that may have been lost due to an undercount in the 2020 census, the U.S. Census Bureau announced on Thursday.

Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Within minutes of learning the 2020 census undercounted Illinois – a mistake left uncorrected, shortchanging state and local governments of millions of dollars of federal cash — Gov. J. B. Pritzker talked to Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth plus Reps. Danny Davis, Jan Schakowsky and Jesus “Chuy” Garcia to start mapping strategy to recoup.

The undercount in Illinois the Census Bureau announced on Thursday — off by 1.97% — means Illinois did not lose population, but instead gained about 250,000 residents between 2010 and 2020.

In the coming days, Pritzker will likely touch base with all the Democrats in the delegation to deal with the Census bungle, which has the collateral impact of depriving Republicans of one of their main attack lines: blaming Pritzker and Democrats for Illinois population loss. 

The census error has a big impact on federal dollars flowing to Illinois. That’s because a vast amount of federal dollars are allocated according to a formula based on population — it does not matter if leaders are Democrats, Republicans or nonpartisans.

Pritzker’s chief of staff and four deputy governors were in D.C. this week. Fortuitous timing. They were here fortifying relationships with members of the congressional delegation and their staffs as well as in agencies and the White House.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this was the first time since President Joe Biden took office that extensive in-person meetings had been possible. The trip timing, if you are curious, was pegged to the governor’s office moving out of the James R. Thompson Center last week, freeing up some days during the transition to the new office, at 555 W. Monroe St.

On the official side, Chief of Staff Anne Caprara huddled with folks in the Biden White House — and on the unofficial side, she worked the precincts to promote Chicago’s bids to host the 2024 Democratic national convention and for Illinois to become one of the early primary states.

The convention bids are due May 27. So far, Chicago’s convention competition is Atlanta, Houston and Las Vegas.

Deputy Governors Christian Mitchell, Andy Manar, Sol Flores and Martin Torres fanned out to meet with (and this is not the complete list, just an overview) Illinois Democratic lawmakers and their staffers; top leaders at the the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission; the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (which helps coordinate security at events like political conventions); the Environmental Protection Agency; the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services; and the Departments of Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, Labor, and Education.

One of the initial tasks is to assess the flow of formula federal money already in the pipeline for Illinois — and figuring out how much cash Illinois is, in a sense, owed because of the census goof.

Caprara said in an interview that “truly the biggest thing is evaluating the federal money” and “really understanding from every facet of government whether we are getting what we should be getting as the fifth-largest state in the country” — and one that added population.

And on the political side, the task is “combating this ridiculous narrative that’s existed for so long that the Republicans like to trumpet — that we have been declining in population and people have been moving out of the state, when exactly the opposite was true.”

Meanwhile, Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., on Friday wrote to Commerce Sec. Gina Raimondo — the Census Bureau is part of the Commerce Department — asking when the “apportionment of federal resources” will reflect the new Illinois population numbers.

The Census Bureau’s Thursday report did not go into details about why the undercount in Illinois occurred; Krishnamoorthi also asked Raimondo to provide “specific factors” contributing to the undercount.

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