Multiple community groups converged in the Metropolitan Family Services’ parking lot (3249 N. Central Ave.) on Friday, Sept. 11, for the 2020 Census Community Giveaway Day. Hosted by Logan-area State Representative Will Guzzardi and others, the event aimed to boost the number of local residents who get counted as the census’ Sept. 30 deadline approaches.
The event also treated guests to music, snacks, free face masks and other personal protective equipment, and free back-to-school items. “Join us on September 11th to complete your 2020 Census and get free resources including school supplies, face masks, raffle tickets, elotes, paletas and more! ” the get-together’s organizers said on a Facebook event page.
But the event’s main goal was to get locals counted. Held only once every 10 years, the census aims to count every person living in a U.S. state or one of five territories, with the results “determining how many representatives each state gets in Congress and how an estimated $1.5 trillion in federal funding are spent,” according to CNN. You can fill out the census online, by phone or by mail; visit the census website to find out more or go directly to the online form.
Mailed forms must be postmarked by Sept. 30, and all other methods must be completed by that date as well. That’s because the Census Bureau changed the counting deadline from Oct. 31 to Sept. 30 in an August announcement.
“The census is incredibly important to our communities,” Guzzardi said in a newsletter. “It determines how billions of federal dollars are spent. For each person who gets counted, we get around $15,000 in federal assistance over 10 years.”
According to the Chicago Tribune, the city’s response rate is currently under 59%, with some neighborhoods lower than 30%, including Portage Park, where the giveaway event was held. Illinois as a whole had a higher response rate, at approximately 70%. Many organizers at last week’s event said they feared that a low response rate from city residents would exacerbate social inequalities in lower-income neighborhoods and would put Chicago and Illinois at risk of losing congressional seats.
“Today’s event was a wonderful opportunity to bring together community leaders and elected officials to work together towards a common goal of making sure we have a complete count in the 2020 census,” said Emily Melbye, Guzzardi’s chief of staff. “We purposefully centered our event in a neighborhood that has a census response rate of around 25% with the hopes of bringing it up before we reach the end of the month. I’m happy to say that we helped just over 100 people count in the 2020 Census, including many children, in just a few short hours.
“Each person who completes the census brings in about $1,800 in federal funding to their community,” Melbye continued, “so we’re hoping that folks continue to encourage their friends, neighbors and family members to complete the census before the deadline later this month.”
In addition to the office of Guzzardi, whose 39th District covers parts of Logan Square, several organizations and political offices set up tents at the Community Giveaway Day event, where participants could speak to representatives on issues surrounding the census and other topics. Other participating local officials included 36th Ward Alderman Gilbert Villegas, U.S. Congressman Chuy Garcia (whose 4th District covers parts of Logan Square), State Representative Eva Dina Delgado, Cook County Commissioner Bridget Degnen, Cook County Commissioner Luis Arroyo Jr., 30th Ward Alderman Ariel E. Reboyras and 31st Ward Alderman Felix Cardona Jr.
Representatives from the U.S. Census Bureau made themselves available, and participating local organizations included 91.5 WBEZ Chicago, Rincon Family Services, Illinois Action for Children, Northwest Side Housing Center, Latino Policy Forum and the Puerto Rican Cultural Center.
In a Facebook post, Alderman Villegas said, “The next 10 years depend on your next 10 minutes. The census requires little effort but results in big consequences. By answering just 10 questions, you could help bring a decade of funding to your community.”
Featured photo: Scott Jauch