Communities in the region continue preparing for the national census, which takes place on April 1.
Galesburg is one of many communities across the nation where the U.S. Census Bureau is still hiring for a variety of positions. Census bureau staff members will meet with applicants several times at the Knox County Workforce Office in the Bondi Building, 311 East Main Street, Suite 612:
· Monday, February 10, 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
· Tuesday, February 18, 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
· Monday, February 24, 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
In a news release, the city said the typical pay rate for Knox County census work is $17.50 per hour. Work schedules will vary by position.
Nationwide, the Census Bureau is still working to fill around 500,000 temporary positions.
The city expects a decline in its population due to decreased enrollment at Western Illinois University, so city leaders say it is imperative that every single person gets counted. The city council is receiving weekly updates from Community Development Coordinator John Bannon, who has reminded them about what’s at stake.
“To put a dollar amount on it, we do receive about $150 per person annually from the state of Illinois,” Bannon said, adding the state receives about $1,500 per person per year from the federal government.
Bannon said a larger population can also encourage economic development.
“We’d all like to have more restaurants, more stores, more factories. And every single person we can get counted in the census data makes it easier to attract those economic institutions,” he said.
Bannon said the Census Bureau will start mailing letters to homes in early March. He said the letters will include a web address and an ID number that will correspond with your street address.
He is concerned about political organizations and other groups that have mailed out items that look like they were sent by the Census Bureau.
“People should look for something that says ‘2020 Census, U.S. Department of Commerce’ at the top. If that’s what it says, it’s legitimate. If it doesn’t say that, it’s not legitimate,” he said.
Bannon is not alone with concerns about look-alike mailers.
Census Advocates Allege Disinformation In Mailer
By Mary Hansen of NPR Illinois
Advocates for an accurate census count claim a mailer from an anti-immigration group constitutes a “disinformation” campaign. The letter, sent out last fall, calls itself a “Consensus Survey” and asks residents for their views on immigration policy.
Anita Banerji, director of the Democracy Initiative with Forefront Illinois — a civic engagement nonprofit — said the survey could discourage people from filling out the actual census form.
“When you receive a letter of this kind that mimics an official document from the Census Bureau, it serves as a scare tactic and could lead to identity theft,” she said.
The survey was distributed by the American Immigration Control Foundation, which the Southern Poverty Law Center considers a hate group . The foundation did not respond to requests for comment.
The return address lists the “Department of Collections” at a post office box in Virginia.
The instructions ask recipients to fill out the survey to give Congress and President Donald Trump the “essential data needed to evaluate and determine public opinion on current population trends and proposed major changes to U.S. immigration policy.” It also asks respondents to confirm their name and mailing address, and requests donations to process the survey.
Cook County Commissioner John Daley said he had similar concerns to Banerji, which is why he shared the letter with Forefront and other elected officials working on the census. A constituent presented the letter at a recent community meeting.
“The concern I've had is … the fear factor that people have,” Daley said. “I think stuff like this just complicates it more.”
Banerji said misinformation or disinformation about the census in Illinois is particularly concerning because of what’s at stake.
“Illinois has had the largest outward population migration in the last five, six years alone,” she said. “We stand to lose so much, definitely one congressional seat and hundreds of millions of federal dollars that all residents across the state rely on. This is the one issue that we rise and fall together as a state and we need for all of our residents to be counted.”
A spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Human Services, which oversees the state’s Census Office, said they were not previously aware of the survey, but forwarded it to the U.S. Census Bureau.
“We can understand why it has generated fear in immigrant communities,” Meghan Powers wrote in an email. “This is why the work we’re doing with our nonprofit partners is so important. They have staff on the ground who are ready to demystify and help people interpret these letters if they receive them.”