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Census Partners With Bloomington-Normal NAACP For Workshop

Census officials seated at table
Tiffani Jackson
The Bloomington-Normal NAACP chapter hosted a workshop with the U.S. Census Bureau on Dec. 12 at Mount Pisgah Baptist Church on Bloomington’s west side.";

The Bloomington-Normal NAACP is working to debunk misconceptions about the census and encourage all residents to be counted as the once-a-decade headcount moves online for the first time.

The NAACP chapter hosted a workshop with the U.S. Census Bureau on Dec. 12 at Mount Pisgah Baptist Church on Bloomington’s west side. It gave residents important information about the benefits of participating in the 2020 census, which will guide how hundreds of billions in federal funding is distributed.

“We know based on the George Washington Institute study for the top projects that are funded by the federal government, you each are worth about $1,500 to the state,” Carol Riley with the Census told the crowd. "That's a real misnomer because not everyone participates in those programs, and when it comes to the city level, it goes down to about $300 to $150 because tax money is distributed on a per capita basis. That’s why it's so important that we count every person.”

In 2020, the census will be mostly online for the first time. In addition to mail-in questionnaires, people will be able to complete the census over the phone and online with 13 languages available.

While misconceptions have kept some from participating, the NAACP encourages residents to educate themselves on false rumors by going to the census website.

"People have fears of what will be done with their information. Some think their rent will go up, or those that are living with them will be taken away, but a lot of questions that we think they're going to ask, they don't, and there's only 10," said NAACP second vice president Willie Halbert.

“They're not asking for your Social Security number or your status as a citizen. They want to know how many people are living in your home so they can say, 'This area has a lot of seniors and college students. What services do they need and what kind of grants can we provide?' So this is something that will help us, plus all the information is encrypted, so it's very confidential," Halbert said.

City of Bloomington employment coordinator Nikita Richards said for communities of color to get the funding they deserve, residents must answer their door.

“While all of our communities can benefit from the funding, when it comes to communities of color and education, the funding disparity is so vast concerning accessibility to the kind of books we will receive and what kind of technology our schools will get," Richards said. "So it's absolutely important in that aspect for black and brown communities specifically.”

Richards said if there is a lack of participation, the result could affect funding for youth programs. 

“I also think about the population of students who receive free or reduced lunch,” Richards said. “Some people only think about material aspects of what a child needs for school, but schools also receive funding for those food and nutrition programs, and in communities of color we know that oftentimes there is a social equity disparity there, so we need those funds. Everyone has to be counted.”

Job Opportunities

In addition to working with schools, hospitals, and libraries to ensure a proper count, the Census Bureau is recruiting heavily for census takers. The federal government hopes to hire around half a million workers by next spring to complete the 2020 census.

Those working for the census in McLean County can earn up to $20.50 an hour. Recruiter Howard Moore said the more people who apply to take part in the counting, the better.

"The census data is how we decide how much to send, where to send it, and if it did the job," Moore said. “We have some hard-to-count and rural areas, so we're building a workforce which reflects, can reach, and complete this important task in our communities.”

See jobs opportunities at 2020Census.gov.

Tiffani Jackson is a reporting intern at WGLT and a student at Illinois State University's School of Communication. She started working at WGLT in summer 2019.
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