Pandemic shines ‘great spotlight’ on Illinois’ digital divide

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$1,400 per person undercounted

In a place like Sesser, a city in Franklin County with a population that’s just under 2,000 people, each resident uncounted in the census can equal $1,400 lost per year, according to Mayor Jason Ashmore.

“I mean just 20, 30 people and you’re talking tens of thousands of dollars we’ll lose each year,” Ashmore said. “We have a flood mitigation program that’s going on right now, we’re spending probably about $50,000. It wouldn’t take very many people to take out that $50,000.”

When rural communities such as Sesser are undercounted, they are unlikely to get an equitable return on their federal tax dollars compared to more urban ones, Ashmore said.

“This is just to bring back money we’ve already paid, and having a correct, accurate census count will make sure that we bring our fair share back to our community,” he said.

Ashmore said broadband connectivity is possible for everyone within the Sesser city limits, but rural residents within the same census bloc are probably closer to 50 percent lacking access entirely.

To combat situations where internet is not available either by cost or by access, the town provides a free Wi-Fi hotspot at the library, where residents can come in to fill out the census or park outside and do it from their vehicles.

26-Delivered

via The Southern

August 30, 2020 at 11:19AM

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