ROCHELLE – The beginning of a new decade means many things for many different people, but one thing that it means for the entire United States is that it is once again time for the country to take their census count.
Every 10 years, the United States takes a count of every person residing in the country to collect data that is used for many different reasons including determining where $675 billion in federal funding is distributed. The entire United States, including Rochelle, will begin its count by sending out letters to all residents between March 12 and April 1 inviting them to respond.
Then, follow up letters and reminder post cards will be sent out through the entire month of April. For anyone who has not responded by the end of April, Census takers will then be sent out to their homes.
Once people have received their letters or been contacted personally by the Census takers, there are a few different ways to respond.
“For most people, they will receive a letter inviting them to respond and then at some point they will get an actual census document that will be English on one side and Spanish on the other,” explained Sue Messer, assistant to the Rochelle city manager. “There will be a unique ID number on it, and then you can either respond online, by phone, or you can request a paper census.”
For the 2020 census, the United States is trying to stray away from the phone and paper census by encouraging more people to respond online.
The City of Rochelle is doing everything in their power to help ensure the upcoming count is as accurate as possible. For the previous count that was taken in 2010, it’s estimated that only 84 percent of the population of Rochelle responded. It’s very important that the count is as accurate as possible so that the city does not miss out on valuable federal funding.
At first, a response rate of 84 percent doesn’t sound that bad, but when the numbers are broken down, it becomes apparent just how much of an impact 16 percent can have on a community.
“That 16 percent over 10 years equates to approximately $150 million in federal funding to the city’s general fund the city is missing out on,” added Messer. “The biggest portion of our city general fund goes to emergency response services as well as the streets department.”
Every person in the Census count matters because many things provided by the state and country are based off population.
One main reason that people decide to not participate in the Census count is out of fear of their information being given out to other organizations. The city wants everyone to know that the questions on the form are for data collecting purposes only, and federal law protects their information from being given out to anyone or any other organization.
“One thing to tell people worried about confidentiality is that their data is protected by federal law and the only thing that can be produced as a result of the Census is data,” said Messer. “Nothing would directly tie their answers back to any person or home, and it even protects their information from other government agencies and law enforcement.”
For anyone in need of assistance completing his or her census form, or in need of a computer to complete their form, the City of Rochelle is hosting many workshops at different locations and on different days throughout the community during the Census collecting months. A card with a list of all of the locations, days and times can be picked up at either the City Hall or the Rochelle Utilities Office.
The state of Illinois is also in need of a few more Census counters to go around to houses that have not responded through the mail or by phone. The starting pay is $17 an hour and it offers flexible hours and paid training.
Ogle County has currently hired 86 percent of its Census takers for 2020, but anybody looking to apply to fill the final positions can do so online at www.2020census.gov/jobs.