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Bloomington-Normal Seeks Outreach As Census Approaches

Demonstrators protest outside the U.S. Supreme Court
J. Scott Applewhite
Demonstrators gather at the Supeme Court to weigh in on a proposed citizenship question that President Donald Trump has since withdrawn.

Illinois is likely to lose at least one and possibly two congressional seats in the 2020 Census because of population loss.
Advocates say that’s just one reason census takers must make sure everyone participates next year.

Antia Banerji
Credit Forefront
Antia Banerji, director of Forefront's Democracy Initiative, said a proper census count determines federal funding and congressional seats and helps communities plan its services and infrastructure.

The Chicago-based nonprofit group Forefront is funding dozens of organizations to canvass the state next year to ensure those hard-to-count populations are in fact counted.

“It’s the renters, the disabled, the homeless, the seniors, the LGBTQ community, so many different pockets of people that build the fabric of America are our hard-to-count populations,” said Anita Banerji, director of Forefront's Democracy Initiative.

There's also the undocumented immigrant community. President Donald Trump recently withdrew a request to add a citizenship question to the census.

A group called Illinois Partners for Human Service plans to work on census outreach in the Bloomington-Normal area.

Normal Mayor Chris Koos said the town has its own population that can be difficult to track.

“It’s a little more challenging for me because I’ve got 21,000 college students (at Illinois State University) and probably about 13- or 14,000 of them live in Normal as their major address, so getting that count is very, very important to us,” Koos said.

Koos said he and Bloomington Mayor Tari Renner have talked about how they could assist in a public information campaign to ensure no one skips the census.

Koos said the census was one on the topics which a recent U.S. Conference of Mayors addressed. He and Renner both attended the conference in Honolulu.

Renner said the city also relies on that census to make sure its services can be most effective and better plan for the future.

“Where are your children, where are the most poor people in your community, where are the most wealthy people in your community, where are the people who have certain kind of issues,” Renner said.

Banerji said Forefront hopes a new census online portal will make it easier to some to comply, but that won't help many in lower-income areas where interest access may be more limited.

“So that is very much a concern when you think about wanting to collect census data online and understanding that’s not the only way that you can self-report for the 2020 Census, but it is an important, critical piece,” Banerji said.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker is committing $29 million toward census outreach. He said the state would lose $1.2 billion in federal funding for every 1% that's undercounted.

You can also listen to the full interview:

WGLT's full interview.

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