About one-third of Peoria households still have not responded to the federal census.
And with census takers ending their work on Sept. 30, a month earlier than previously planned, it’s getting down to crunch time — resulting in local officials trying to find new ways to reach residents and get them to respond to the once-a-decade national survey.
One plan involves recruiting volunteers to go out into neighborhoods themselves, supplementing existing door-to-door census takers, to boost the number of responses.
Peoria Citizens Committee for Economic Opportunity, the local agency that’s serving as an outreach partner, is looking for such volunteers to go out for a few hours, likely on Saturday, Sept. 12, to do so. People interested in participating are asked to contact Norris Watson at the agency, email@example.com.
That’s especially important because of some low response rates so far in hard-to-count areas that typically include minority communities that First District Councilwoman Denise Moore called "very distressing."
The plan, she said, is for volunteers to start in the city’s south side, throughout the 61605 ZIP code, and then potentially go into the city’s North Valley in the 61603 ZIP code. Parts of both areas have had lagging rates of response.
Why does it matter? A complete, accurate count helps to fairly divvy up billions of dollars of federal funds for road repair, schools, libraries, health clinics and much more. Tens of millions of dollars over the next decade are at stake here, leaders have said.
"This is too important," Moore said last week. "We talk about everything being local. Well, you can’t get more local than counting folks to have them be involved in bringing funds to our community."
Other outreach plans
Word about the census has been harder to get out this year, At-Large Councilman Sid Ruckriegel said. Between the stay-at-home order early in the COVID-19 pandemic, then the cancellation of many group festivals and events, it’s been more of a challenge for locals involved in the effort to communicate the importance of the census — and, he said, the relative ease of completing the questions.
Ruckriegel, the city’s point person on census efforts, said they’re considering additional social-media efforts to target people in harder-to-reach populations and more work through churches, not-for-profits and even governmental bodies.
"The snapshot of Peoria is a multicultural, multiracial community. And it is something that we truly, in a lot of ways, celebrate," he said. "The best way to be able to have that really recognized is to make sure that our census follows that as well."
Additionally, census workers themselves are already going door to door to get information from those who haven’t yet responded.
"While someone might have second thoughts about answering the door during COVID-19, it really is important for our residents to do so when a census taker knocks on your door," said Rob Reneau, the County Board member who is helping coordinate Peoria County efforts.
Workers will be masked, will obey social-distancing guidelines and will have an ID that shows they work for the Census Bureau inside the U.S. Department of Commerce.
Regionally favorable results
Broadly, the region’s rates are generally favorable in comparison with the state as a whole. Nationally, only 63.6% of households had responded as of Sunday. In Illinois, it’s 68.5%, while in Peoria County it’s 68.8%, and in Tazewell County it’s 74.5%.
Woodford County has one of the top response rates in the state, with 76.4% of households there having responded.
Most area municipalities are also outperforming the national statistics. And some look at it as a matter of civic pride. East Peoria city officials, for instance, are pushing for a municipal response rate of 80% — matching what residents achieved in 2010.
"Of course, we’d like to get above 80% because the census determines things that count for us all: how many seats Illinois will get in the U.S. House of Representatives, and how billions of federal dollars are allocated for public services like schools, roads, hospitals and hundreds of other programs," the city said in its communique to residents.
Right now, some 72.7% of households in that community have responded. It’s 65.5% in Peoria, 75.8% in Washington, 80.3% in Morton and 72.3% in Pekin.
Those who don’t want a knock at their door can respond either by calling (844) 330-2020 to speak to a census representative or by going online to http://www.my2020Census.gov. The questionnaire can take 10 minutes or less to complete, and you don’t need to have the sheet of paper with the code that was sent to your home back in the spring in order to participate.
via Journal Star
August 17, 2020 at 03:35PM