OUR VIEW: Representation, money at stake with 2020 census

Collecting and formulating census data every decade is an enormous undertaking.

But doing our part to ensure an accurate count takes only a few minutes, and the rewards are huge.

The COVID-19 pandemic has infiltrated our daily lives. It would be easy to overlook the form in the mail, or the marketing on television, in newspapers and online.

Please don't.

Census data helps direct billions of federal dollars annually to highway planning, teacher grants, nutritional programs for pregnant women and children, hospitals, fire departments, housing assistance, and school lunch programs. Census statistics also are used to distribute motor fuel and marijuana tax revenues to cities and counties, as well as determine how many seats the U.S. House Illinois will have and how many electoral votes the state will get, among other items.

By ignoring the census, you're forfeiting federal dollars for these important projects and programs and could ultimately lose legislative influence.

As of Aug. 4, Illinois had a 67.9% census response rate; the national response rate sat at 63.1%.

The good news is you still have time to complete your census form. The response portal will be open until Oct. 31 because of delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. It takes about three minutes to complete online at https://my2020census.gov/

Gov. JB Pritzker explained the importance of the census count on a recent visit to Rockford. A 1% undercount for the state could result in it losing $195 million per year in federal funding for the next decade, Pritzker said in a Capitol News Illinois report. That equates to about $1,500 per year in federal funding lost for each person not counted in the census.

Based upon the 2010 count, the state collects $34 billion in federal funds annually.

While the governor said the census has historically “not been an accessible tool,” leaving “too many people locked out and left behind,” he pointed out that there is no citizenship question on the census form and organizers are doing all they can to make communities that are fearful of such a question comfortable in filling out the form.

It’s not too late to respond either online, by phone, or by mail. To complete the questionnaire by phone call 844-330-2020.

Census-takers will be going door-to-door through Sept. 30, but because they're working during a pandemic, many people may not be reached by these workers.

With millions unemployed as a result of the health crisis, and less sales tax dollars flowing into cities, states and counties, it's more important than ever to fill out these surveys.

When it comes time to divvy up the pie of federal dollars, we want to be certain we receive our full piece.

The census counts.