Volunteers needed for census

Locally, millions of dollars at stake

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By Maria Maxham

The Forest Park Complete Count Committee (CCC) is looking for volunteers to help educate residents and spread the word about the importance of the 2020 Census.

"It's vital that we get as many people as possible to participate in the census," said committee Chairman Alex Serrano. 

One of the biggest advantages of maximum resident participation in the census is that the government calculates funding for infrastructure, schools and other areas of local need based on how many people are counted. Mayor Rory Hoskins spoke to the Review in August about the critical importance of the census.

"There are estimates that for every person not counted, the village can lose $1,800," said Hoskins. "This affects schools; it affects park districts; it affects every unit of government because we need the revenue."

Dionne Roberts-Emegha, a census partnership specialist, said, "The federal government allocates $675 billion to states based on census data and, of course, cities and counties and local governments use census data to plan where to put bridges, roads, schools, etc. It's really the reason why the census is important."

In 2010, only 74 percent of Forest Park residents participated in the census. With a rough population of 14,000, that means approximately 3,640 people were not counted. At $1,800 a year, that's an annual loss of revenue of over $6.5 million. Over 10 years, since the last census, that's over $65 million.

Lots and lots of money.

"That's why we need volunteers," said Serrano. "We need to make sure the word gets out there."

When asked what the committee's goal is this year, he laughed and said he'd like to see 98 to 100 percent participation in the 2020 Census. "But let's be realistic," he said, adding that any increase would make a big difference.

"There are so many misconceptions about the census," Serrano said. "For example, people don't trust the government. But the government is obligated to keep their information confidential." He encourages people to look up Title 13 of the U.S. Code, which is in place to ensure that sensitive or confidential information isn't shared. 

According to the census.gov website, "By law, your information is confidential. Your answers cannot be used against you by any government agency or court. Anyone who violates this law faces severe penalties."

Committee member Michelle Fitz-Henry spoke at an October Forest Park village council meeting to raise awareness about the committee. She stressed that volunteers do not go door to door. Instead, they work with the Census Bureau to raise awareness through media, village events and faith-based organizations.

"Our village needs a robust response to the upcoming census to receive monetary benefits that we deserve and are entitled to. Residents must participate in the upcoming census," said Fitz-Henry.

She added that the philosophy of the committee is "Do what you can do when you can do it." In other words, any amount of help is appreciated and welcome.

Serrano said that people who are interested in helping can send an email to the committee at forestpark.ccc@gmail.com. This includes people who run events or faith-based organizations and would be willing to allow census committee members to distribute information.

 

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