BACK OF THE YARDS — Back of the Yards has the lowest census participation rate in the county, officials say.
Just 34.6 percent of households in the area have filled out the census thus far, the lowest response rate in Cook County, said Cook County Commissioner Alma Anaya.
“Back of the Yards is falling behind,” she said at a Wednesday press conference at Cornell Square Park.
In an effort to galvanize the South Side neighborhood, elected officials, community groups and neighbors kicked off a weeks-long effort to canvass streets, passing out literature and urging residents to fill out the census.
Anaya and other officials said it’s important to count everyone in the community to get the funding they should have for parks, schools, roads and other community needs.
At least one congressional seat is at stake should Illinois’ population fall if people aren’t counted. Each individual not counted can mean losing up to $14,000 in federal funding, Anaya said.
“Our communities have been ignored and underserved for too long,” State Rep. Aaron Ortiz said. “Not filling out the census makes it very easy to keep ignoring us … . Filling out the census makes sure we can fight for funding for things like schools, parks, libraries and hospitals in our communities.”
Ald. Jeanette Taylor (20th) said filling out the census was a “step in the right direction” toward making change for the community amidst a global pandemic and unrest.
Critical services funded by federal dollars tied to census data include Head Start, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, free lunch programs, Title I grants for schools, Section 8 housing and more, Taylor said.
As part of the effort, members of United States Hispanic Leadership Institute, Increase the Peace, the Resurrection Project, Peace and Education Coalition and SGA Youth & Family Services handed out flyers and spoke to residents at their homes throughout the neighborhood Wednesday afternoon.
Organizers have events planned for Little Village, McKinley Park, Brighton Park and Pilsen, and Anaya hopes the groups can drive up the numbers in Back of the Yards and other neighborhoods with low census turnout, like Little Village and Pilsen. Those two neighborhoods have response rates under 40 percent, Anaya said.
While the census deadline has been extended until Oct. 31, Anaya hopes to drive up numbers now to alleviate neighbors’ fear of fraud when census workers start going door to door in August.
It’s time to “unite” by being counted and ensure resources come to the community in years to come, Anaya said.
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