Group promotes importance of completing 2020 Census

Ed Juracek, president of the Blackhawk Hills Regional Council board of directors, places a 2020 Census sign Friday, April 3, at the Carroll County Courthouse.

Blackhawk Hills Regional Council (BHRC), an economic development planning agency, has partnered with the Illinois Department of Human Services to help promote the 2020 Census in northwest Illinois.

Over 2,000 yard signs will be distributed throughout six counties (Carroll, Jo Daviess, Stephenson, Ogle, Whiteside, Lee). The signs were designed by executive director, Daniel Payette, who created the graphics in partnership with the City of Freeport and Region 1 Planning Council who coined the #815counts hashtag and logo.

The overall goal of the signs is to promote awareness and increase participation in the 2020 Census. Responses to the census, help determine the allocation of over $675 billion in federal funding. However, BHRC officials said this can be a very abstract concept for many so it's important to consider the relationship of fund allocation and what that means for individuals and their communities.

The 'Shape your Future' slogan helps bridge these ideas and gets people thinking about what the census means for their future and the community they call home, officials said. For every person counted, a community receives +/- $1,800 in federal funds for hospitals, schools, roads, libraries, etc.

The census matters to everyone but there is also a focus on hard to count (HTC) populations, who are at risk for not being counted such as children and snowbird residents. The 'kids at home' messaging was a response to the 2+ million children that were not counted in the last decennial count. The census happens only once every 10 years, so not counting a newborn this year will impact that child nearly their whole childhood. Partnership efforts with education professionals have helped facilitate this message relay to families in the community. Last but not least, the 'snowbird' signs address a population of individuals who live part time in a different location. Many Illinois residents head south for the winter and this invisible population needs to be accounted for in the correct location so that the funding is directed appropriately.

More information about the importance of the census can be found at www.nwilcounts.org. The website was created to provide additional resources specific to Northwest Illinois. For example, the website lists assistance location sites in each county, where the census can be completed. However, several of those partnering locations have had to withdraw or postpone participation in order to comply with social distancing recommendations. However, 2020 is the first year the census has been made available online. This allows everyone to take the census anywhere, or anytime from a smartphone or computer. As a result, this reduces the need for census takers showing up at your door, especially during a time when this physical contact is most dangerous. The website also offers dual language translation, a phone directory listing, and weekly updates on response rates in the region to name a few.

People across America are keeping their families and communities safe and healthy by providing essential services or staying home. Responding to the census yourself---online, by phone or through the mail---is another way to do your part to help keep your community strong.

If you are interested in receiving a yard sign for your home or business to help support this cause, contact Jessica Boettner at Jessica.boettner@blackhawkhills.com or by phone at 779-717-2300.