Illinois Coalition of Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR), along with community partners Enlace and Taller de Jose, took to the streets of Little Village to promote Census Day. Credit: Brandon Lee/ ICIRR

CHICAGO — Just over half of Chicagoans have filled out the 2020 Census — and that needs to increase or else the city will lose much-needed federal funding, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Monday.

Lightfoot, speaking during a Monday press conference, said the city has done “everything under the sun” to inform people about the 2020 Census — yet the city’s “not even close” to where it needs to be.

“We have to do better. We can do better,” Lightfoot said. “We have to aim higher and set our sights on making sure we do everything we can to change that 55 percent to a much higher number.”

The census can be filled out online or over the phone by calling 844-330-2020. It typically takes less than 10 minutes to fill out.

The census is meant to check the population throughout the United States. The count is used when lawmakers and agencies decide where to send billions of dollars each year, impacting funding for resources like hospitals, schools and roads.

For example, the West Side undoubtedly needs more resources, Lightfoot said — and there’s “one easy way” to get those: fill out the census.

“The census isn’t just about tallying our city’s population; it’s about making sure we have the resources we need to make sure investments happen all over this city,” Lightfoot said. “We’ve got a lot to lose, but it’s important we get this done and get it done as quickly as possible. We need to make sure that we don’t fall subject to the national winds that are blowing.

“[There are] people who don’t want us to be counted. … Don’t let them win. We win by making sure we are counted.”

Anita Banerji, director of Forefront’s Democracy Initiative, said filling out the census can help people empower their communities by ensuring they get the resources they need.

“We have the chance to do right by our communities, to ensure that our neighbors, our friends, our family members and our communities are getting counted,” Banerji said. “Please remember: The census count is a civil right. It’s a human right. Everyone must be counted.”

The city is stepping up its efforts to get people counted: Lightfoot said she’ll send the famed “Dreadhead Cowboy” to areas with low response rates to raise awareness of how important it is to fill out the census. The cowboy is Adam Hollingsworth, an activist who rides his horse through the city.

The Census Bureau will also start sending people door to door to get responses in August.

It’s key Chicago improve its response rate before the Oct. 31 deadline, officials said. Chicago’s rate is 55 percent. The response rate is 61.6 percent for Cook County and 66.8 percent for Illinois.

“I know this has been a challenging time for everyone, but I’m issuing a challenge to every community where your responses are low: Please, step up,” Lightfoot said. “The census takes about five minutes. It couldn’t be easier.”

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