Groups make final 2020 census outreach efforts with new deadline on Thursday

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State Rep. Elizabeth Hernandez, D-Cicero, (center left) speaks with residents of the Backstretch at Hawthorne Race Course, 3501 S. Laramie Ave. in Stickney, about the 2020 census.
State Rep. Elizabeth Hernandez, D-Cicero, (center left) speaks with residents of the Backstretch at Hawthorne Race Course, 3501 S. Laramie Ave. in Stickney, about the 2020 census. | Manny Ramos/Chicago Sun-Times

The census can still be filled out online or by phone through early Friday, but mail-in forms had to be postmarked Thursday to count.

Eddy Borrayo’s hoodie was pulled over his head tightly Thursday morning with a bubbling sense of urgency at the front of his mind.

“It’s now or never and I have a sense of there’s no tomorrow, because there really is no tomorrow,” Borrayo said. “Whatever we need to do now, we must do it to make sure everyone is counted.”

The weight Borrayo felt was prompted by the U.S. Census Bureau announcing it would mostly end the 2020 census Thursday night, 15 days earlier than anticipated., after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled it could do so.

People can still respond to the census in several ways:

• Online, through 4:59 a.m. Friday at 2020census.gov.

• By phone, through 1 a.m. Friday, by calling English 844-330-2020 (English), 844-468-2020 (Spanish) or 844-467-2020 (TDD).

• By mail, if your form is postmarked by Thursday.

Borrayo now worries Illinois will be severely undercounted because of political interference with the once-a-decade count which could spell disaster on how cities and towns are federally funded.

He spent the morning at what is called the Backstretch at Hawthorne Race Course, 3501 S. Laramie Ave. in Stickney, attempting to count as many people he and his team could. Hundreds of workers who tend to the horses and the barns live in a community at the Backstretch, Borrayo said; many never were counted.

“As we are talking to them, we are telling them to tell their neighbor to come out and that is how we are getting people to get counted,” Borrayo said. “This is the benefits of meeting families where they are at.”

Rincon Family Services were able to help more than 100 families fill out the census ahead of the deadline. Borrayo said no census taker had previously tried to count any of these households.

The deadline to complete the census initially had been pushed back from July 31 to Oct. 31 because the bureau was forced to delay deploying census takers into communities because of the pandemic.

That Oct. 31 deadline has been a point of contention in recent weeks when the Trump administration abruptly changed it to Sept. 31.

The Trump administration said it needed to change the date in order to meet the Dec. 31 deadline to report census results for apportionment counts which is used to redraw state and federal legislative districts.

Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross (the Census Bureau is part of the Department of Commerce) was hit with a lawsuit from the National Urban League demanding the last count be pushed back to Oct. 31, and a judge agreed, issuing a preliminary injunction.

Ross appealed, and lost. But the U.S. Supreme Court said the bureau could end its count early.

Chicago’s dismal 60.6% self-response rate is less than its 62.5% self-response rate in 2010 – and far from Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s goal of 75%.

Most Black and Latino majority communities have also underperformed and hold a response rate of under 40% which is of major concern for groups like Rincon Family Services.

Borrayo planned to be in Back of the Yards later Thursday evening to try and get people counted before its too late. Census takers also will still be knocking on doors Thursday night.

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October 15, 2020 at 05:36PM

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