Unless you have been living under a rock, you know that the decennial Census is coming. And if you have been living under a rock, you will hear about it when a Census taker comes knocking later this year. I thought I would dedicate my monthly message to an issue important to Greater Peoria, Illinois and the entire nation. The U.S. Constitution is pretty sparse when it comes to outlining things the federal government must do. But one thing it does command is a full count of people every ten years.
Why use a column in an economic development newsletter to discuss the Census? Because getting an accurate and complete count is incredibly important to the future of our communities. The federal and state governments use population to make all sorts of decisions that impact all of us. Census information is used to apportion Congressional districts as well as Illinois General Assembly districts. The population of a village, city or county determines levels of public funding for everything from law enforcement to education to roads. At Greater Peoria EDC, we use Census data all the time to help us better understand our region’s demographics. A quick look at our DataHub will reveal lots of data points and analysis based on Census and the related American Community Survey information. An undercount of our region could result in the loss of thousands if not millions of dollars in public funding.
This time Census Day is April 1 though it is way more than a one day event. Households will actually start getting mailings in mid-March, providing instruction on how to complete the Census. For the first time, residents will be able to complete the Census questionnaire on-line. There are other options: people can call a toll-free number, complete the on-line version at local libraries or other public places, or even fill out a printed copy and mail it in. The Census is available in dozens of languages to ensure the most accurate count. People who do not complete the Census in this first round will be visited by a Census taker in late spring or early summer to complete the count.
Our friends at Tri-County Regional Planning Commission and Peoria Citizens Committee for Economic Opportunity (PCCEO) are working hard to educate the public about the Census. Armed with grants from the state of Illinois, they are launching a marketing campaign and conducting outreach activities across ten counties in Central Illinois to help people understand what to do when they receive their questionnaire letter, reinforce the importance of the Census, and dispel some commonly held myths.
What can you do to help? First, complete the questionnaire when you get it. Tell your friends and family to do so as well. If you are a business owner, take a few moments at a staff meeting to share the importance of completing the Census. Teachers can talk to students about it, pastors can tell their congregants, and social service agencies can work with their clients. It needs to be a group effort. And if you know someone looking for a job, the Census is hiring hundreds of people here locally. Wages are very competitive: positions in Peoria County, for example, start at $21/hour. You can learn more about jobs here.
The official tagline of the U.S. Census Bureau is to “count everyone once, only once, and in the right place.” We all need to do our part to fulfill this fundamental civic duty.
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