A Northwest Side community group is trying to address two of the most pressing issues facing Latinos in Chicago.
With Latinos among the hardest hit by COVID-19 — and set to lose more if they’re left undercounted in the 2020 census — organizers with Rincon Family Services on Thursday began passing out masks, hand sanitizer and educational flyers outside the New Life Covenant Church, 3400 W. Division St. in Humboldt Park.
The goal is two-fold: help the Latino community fight COVID-19 with needed sanitizer and masks, and advertise the importance of the 2020 Census, on which hangs billions of dollars in needed federal aid.
“As a result of this crisis, our community needs representation more than ever,” Rincon CEO Eddy Borrayo told reporters outside the church.
“This is about representation. This is about fighting for resources.”
Latinos make up 60% of the population in the 10 ZIP codes in Illinois with the fastest growing number of new COVID-19 cases, according to a recent analysis, but Latino neighborhoods have one of the lowest rates of completing census forms.
“The census is one of the few vehicles we all have to bring resources and aid to our communities,” director of the Illinois Census Office Oswaldo Alvarez said during the news conference.
While Illinois has one of the highest overall census response rates so far — about 50% — Latino neighborhoods are lagging. That includes Humboldt Park (30% return rate) and Little Village (20%), Alvarez said.
The census helps determine the allocation of $34 billion in federal aid to Illinois each year, Alvarez said. That means each uncounted person equals about $1,400 in lost federal aid per year, he said. Over a decade, until the next census count, that’s well over $10,000 in lost aid to Latino neighborhoods.
“Think about how much money we’re going to lose if we don’t count ourselves,” Alvarez said. “This is one of the best ways to support your communities while we’re at home.”
He asked people to fill out their census form at my2020census.gov.
The hand sanitizer — 55 gallons of it — will be passed to out to the thousands of family who use the church’s food pantry each week, and to seniors who receive grocery deliveries, Rev. David Marrero, pastor of New Life Covenant Church, told reporters.
“The church building may be closed, but we’re outside of these walls doing the very best so we can to be a part of what’s happening in this pandemic,” Marrero said.