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McLean County, State Leaders Push Census As Deadline Approaches

Chris Koos speaking at podium
Eric Stock
Mayor Chris Koos said during a news conference at Illinois State University the pandemic has made it tougher to count the student population in Normal.

Local and state government leaders in McLean County are issuing a plea to get counted as the 2020 Census moves into the final weeks.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker visited the Illinois State University campus to urge everyone to respond to the census before the Sept. 30 deadline. The census count determines federal funding and representation in each community.

“It’s more important than ever before,” Pritzker declared during a news conference. “It will bring more investment, better schools, better roads, and better healthcare to your community and to you and to your family.”

College towns typically have lower census response rates and Normal is no exception. With less than three weeks to go, the town's self-response rate is 66%, that's below the state average of 70%.

Mayor Chris Koos said the pandemic has made it tougher. Many students who would be in Normal are back home taking classes online.

“It’s a cruel irony that an undertaking so important as the 2020 census is straddled with COVID-19 and the challenges we face on a daily basis to do an accurate census count,” Koos said.

African-Americans are another historically undercounted population. Linda Foster, president of the Bloomington-Normal NAACP, said the census is a cause for civil rights.

“People of color are impacted by underfunding, under political representation and under counted,” Foster said. “This lasts a decade.”

The pandemic delayed door-to-door outreach for months and that limited the time census workers could spend canvassing communities.

Illinois Department of Human Services Secretary Grace Hou said the state funded 16 organizations in McLean County to help with census outreach to get people to self-respond so they could avoid a knock at the door.

“We have funded a grassroots effort all across the state in addition to a robust marketing and outreach plan,” Hou said.

The census can be done online at www.my2020census.gov, by phone or mail.

Bloomington (73%) and McLean County (72%) are both higher than the state response rate.

The national rate is 66%.

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Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.
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