CHICAGO (CBS) — COVID-19, civil unrest, wildfires, and hurricanes — all threw a wrench into U.S. Census Breau plans, but 2020 was not done yet.
The feds had no comment for us about a court order that suddenly ended the Census last week. But Chicago leaders did.
CBS 2’s Lauren Victory on Saturday shared insight from city population counters who thought they would have until the end of the month to wrap up.
When CBS 2 sat down with U.S. Census Bureau Chicago Regional Director Marilyn Sanders in January, she didn’t know, we didn’t know, and you didn’t know that a global virus was going to mess up a lot of things.
That included the tall task of getting population numbers and demographics of everyone who lives in the Midwest.
Sanders and a whole lot of other people had been preparing for the 2020 Census for the past 10 years. But the coronavirus pandemic caused cheery videos of census takers to be edited to show people wearing masks.
And plans to count people needed changing too.
“Shortening the timeline, lengthening the timeline,” said Nubia Willman, director of the Chicago Office of New Americans.
Willman said the scramble took a toll.
“All of that back-and-forth just caused a lot of confusion and mistrust essentially,” she said.
Then last week came one of the biggest blows to city counting efforts. A court order abruptly ended the Census 16 days earlier than expected.
“It affected us in the sense that there were still pockets of historically undercounted communities that we just weren’t able to reach,” Willman said.
Missing just one person costs an estimated $1,400 in federal funding a year. Multiply that by 10, because the Census is once a decade, and that is $14,000 per person until 2030.
“To not have that extra time really cut us off at the knees,” Willman said.
But Willman said the city did its best given the time crunch and the pandemic.
“It became a wifi hotspot,” she said.
The city rolled with the punches in a mobile census van, and more.
“We were doing, we are doing, we did, and we did do better than most major cities,” Willman said.
Chicago’s final count will be determined in the coming weeks.
Current data show Chicago ranks sixth best for residents filling out the Census themselves. That is among cities with more than 1 million residents.
Willman said difficulty with the 2020 Census began before COVID-19 hit. She feels the controversy over the question of citizenship – which ultimately did not make it on the questionnaire – caused fear in immigrant communities.
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