Editorial: Counting everyone in the 2020 Census

In about 220 days, you will be asked to answer a few questions about yourself and your family that will have far-reaching ramifications.

The 2020 Census is coming and a host of "Complete Count" groups have formed in the suburbs and across the state to make sure everyone - especially groups most at risk for undercounting, such as young children and foreign-born residents - is counted.

Among them is the "2020 Elgin Complete Count" effort launching this week by the city of Elgin and Gail Borden Public Library, with the goal of creating a network of people to spread the word and ensure participation of the entire community.

"We want to make sure we have the right messengers," such as faith-based organizations and nonprofits, "to reach these hard-to-count groups ... so we can ensure accurate information and we can build awareness and trust," Elgin Assistant City Manager Laura Valdez told Staff Writer Elena Ferrarin.

Some concern has been expressed about the number of these groups in the suburbs and duplication of efforts, but we disagree. The work they will do ahead of Census Day, April 1, will be critical to spread the word about the Census, stress the confidentiality of personal information and convince people the importance of filling out the form.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the data will help determine the distribution of more than $675 billion in federal funds annually.

Those funds are used for local services, such as emergency response and fire departments, and clinics and hospitals. Census results also determine congressional representation for each state and are used by states to draw state legislative and school district lines.

Not being counted has serious implications. For example, the Kane County Board recently received information from the Illinois Complete Count Commission and the Census Bureau showing a potential 97,901 individuals, or 19% of the county's population, were not counted in 2010. That meant a potential loss of $176 million per year since 2010, officials said.

The once-a-decade effort requires every person in the U.S. be counted regardless of citizenship and immigration status. By law, the information is confidential and not shared with anyone, including government agencies.

President Donald Trump's controversial attempt to add a citizenship question to the census was stopped in June by the U.S. Supreme Court, but it may have made some immigrants reluctant to participate.

That's where the local Complete Count groups and others will play a key role in building trust in the Census.

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