“ With many towns around the nation being cash-strapped, forcing government officials to often resort to two undesirable choices — raise taxes or cut services — taxpayers must make sure the federal government is pitching in to help ease the burden.
We are not calling for a bigger bureaucracy. Rather, we call on individuals to undertake a major civic duty, one that’s right up there with voting; filling out the U.S. Census.
The Census is a federal government form issued to households every 10 years to gather data on population and trends. Islamic Relief USA, a nonprofit humanitarian and advocacy organization, is a national Census partner and is encouraging individuals around the country through public service announcements to complete this form. Among other things, the Census helps determine where to allocate some $675 billion, which isn’t exactly peanuts.
For Kankakee County residents, it’s especially crucial to fill out the Census, since the county is considered a “hard to count” population. This designation is based on the percentage of residents not expected to complete the form.
The bureau estimates that about 21 percent of the population isn’t expected to respond. It states that Kankakee County has a “high proportion (of the population) living below the poverty level,” (many of whom are children), and “low median income.” A 2018 research paper by the Partnership for a Healthy Community found that the number of kids receiving free or reduced lunch increased from 50 percent to 57 percent. The report pointed out that more county residents are receiving health care because of the Affordable Care Act. However, if recent current events are any indication, the ACA could be in jeopardy as its viability will be reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Given these realities, it’s essential that individuals in Kankakee County complete the Census. That’s because most of the Census funds help support an array of safety net programs involving food security, rental assistance, school lunches, early childhood education, job training and college financial aid. These are issues that many organizations, including IRUSA, care about deeply to help people rise from poverty.
Kankakee County has a noticeable proportion of residents relying on safety net programs. The partnership report pointed out that a higher percentage of county residents — when compared to Illinois households in general — receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, commonly known as food stamps. It also pointed out that about 35 percent of people in the county have little to no access to fresh food.
Access to a quality education also is an area in need of improvement. About 75 percent of fourth-grade students were deemed “not proficient or worse” in reading. Also, only about 18 percent of county residents have a college degree, which could partly be attributed to tuitions being out of reach for many families. That average is well below the Illinois mean of 32 percent.
If more individuals fill out and submit the Census, there’s a possibility more funding will be allocated. The funds can be used to enroll more kids in HeadStart early childhood education programs, provide subsidized lunches to pupils from low-income households, enable more adults to participate in vocational programs, and enable more students to attend college with the help of federal Pell Grants.
Completing the Census is hardly a difficult task, as the average length of time is a mere six minutes. Because of increased use of technology, most people will complete the form online instead of snail mail. And, it’s available in many languages, too.
Households can expect to receive information about the Census in the mail next month. Make sure you’re counted.”
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