2020 census: We all count

The start of a new decade is quickly approaching. Ourselves and our country will continue to evolve and face new challenges.

In 2020, the United States will be conducting its 24th nationwide census. To ensure students and community members became well informed about the census, JJC held an informational meeting on Monday, Oct. 21.

The meeting took place in the Main Campus Library event area. The college welcomed guest speaker Joseph Natale, chief deputy director for the Illinois State Library, to begin the discussion.

Natale spoke on behalf of the Illinois Complete Count Commission, a group formed in 2017. The main purpose of the commission is “to educate, encourage, and engage people in the state to participate in the census.”

The census is taken every 10 years, and aims to provide states with what they need by taking a massive count of every person in the country, including their race, sex, and age. This was considered very important by the Founding Fathers. So much so, that they included it in the Constitution (Article I, Section 2).

The census helps us see how the country is changing. It impacts federal funding and the amount of representatives each state should receive. “The census is important because it funds libraries, roads, schools, healthcare, and employment,” Natale said.

Unlike previous years, the 2020 census will be offered primarily online, and even by phone. If one does not initially respond to those options, a local community census taker will knock on their door to help them fill out the application.

Natale mentioned a big goal for the upcoming census is to engage the “hard to count” communities, places in which there is low census participation. This can be due to many factors, such as language barriers or lack of knowledge.

Also in attendance was Verenise Alvarez, Get Out the Count (GOTC) campaign coordinator with the Spanish Community Center. The team has been working to make sure the word is spread to those hard to count communities, and make sure they are counted.

Alvarez and her team will also be launching a campaign that targets children in the community. “The population that was hardest to count in the previous census was children under five,” Alvarez said. “This is mostly based because parents just forget to count their kids. . . We want to raise awareness that if you have a baby on April 1, that baby counts.”

There is another population that the Census Bureau has to work hard to engage next year. There are high concerns that noncitizens will not fill out the 2020 census.

Alvarez shares that she and her team, along with the city of Joliet, have launched a bilingual campaign called “We Count 2020 (Todos Contamos 2020).” Organizations like this are working hard to encourage the entire population to participate, especially non-citizens.

Despite the Trump administration’s failed attempt of including a citizenship question, there are still concerns that non-citizens will not respond to the census. Alvarez shared that the majority of the residents in the Downtown Joliet area, as well as the East Side of Joliet, are Latinx.

“That’s going to really change how we communicate with that specific area. We want to make sure we include information in Spanish,” Alvarez said. Bilingual census takers will be making sure everyone is informed and feels comfortable participating.

Alvarez also found that a lot of Joliet residents may not have internet access. “One of the best partnerships that we have is with the Joliet Public Library. . . We’re working working really hard together so that we can have computer kiosks with signage,” she said.

They hope to raise awareness to those without internet access that they can fill out the census at the Joliet Public Library, the Spanish Community Center, and even JJC’s campuses.

If you would like to learn more about the census, or learn how to get involved, visit census.gov.