Merit Based Review Process for 2020 Census NOFO

The Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) was appropriated $29 million by the Illinois General Assembly and directed through Executive Order to distribute grants to community providers for the education and outreach across the state on the 2020 Census in Illinois. The Illinois 2020 Census Office is committed to conduct a fair and accurate count of all Illinoisans in the 2020 census.

The Notice of Funding Opportunity was issued on July 31, 2019 and applications are due on September 13, 2019. Applications will be scored using a Merit-Based Review process (MBR). The MBR follows uniform guidance laid out in the Government Accountability and Transparency Act (GATA). The Law can be found here:

Applicants will be notified the week of October 7th on the outcome.

The IDHS 2020 Census Office established key principles to guide the management of the Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO). They include:

  • Expertise and reflection of the Hard-to-Count (HTC) populations and regions
  • Open communication and public feedback
  • Transparency
  • Balancing speed with careful, responsible program management
  • Diversity, equity and inclusion

There are also key criteria for members of the MBR team:

  • Knowledge of and/or experience with the US Census activities
  • Knowledge and/or expertise on one or more of the Hard to Count (HTC) populations on which we are Focusing our outreach and education efforts (see attached description of HTC)
  • Understanding of the unique needs and circumstances of a specific region of the state of Illinois (see the attached map for the 12 regions used as part of this process)
  • Reflection of the HTC demographics of the region

The IDHS is committed to administering the Process to review applications with transparency, equity and integrity to ensure Illinois Hard to Count populations are accurately counted. The process involves the following:

  • Development of a scoring rubric
    • The IDHS developed a scoring rubric and included it in the NOFO for full transparency and to promote the strongest applications possible (see the scoring rubric below).
  • A diverse and expert Merit-Based Review Team that reflects HTC populations
    • The IDHS, along with recommendations from academia, the 2020 Census Advisory Panel and other experts is assembling a team of reviewers with expertise, diversity, and a commitment to a fair and accurate count in 2020.
    • The goal is to have 50% of reviewers be external to state government and the remainder being drawn from experienced staff within state government.
    • Reviewers will be placed into teams of no less than three people. Each team will be created with consideration to diversity, expertise and geography.
    • Each reviewer must sign a conflict of interest, participate in a training on the Merit Based Review Process, and commit to an estimated 15 hours in the month of September.
  • Process for Appeals
    • Appeals will be processed in accordance with 44 Il. Adm. Code 7000.350 Merit Based Review of Grant Application g) Appeals Process located at the following link: Merit Based Review of Grant Application - Appeals Process.
    • A written appeal must be submitted electronically, in accordance with the grant application document.
    • A written appeal must be received within 14 calendar days after the date that the grant award notice has been published.
    • Appeals are to be submitted to the IDHS Census Office at

Scoring Rubric

Criteria Score
Executive Summary Not scored
Need - Description of Need 10
Capacity - Entity Qualifications/Organizational Capacity 40
  • Overall Entity Capacity (20 points)
  • Prior Experience (20 points)
Quality - Description of Program Services 42
  • Overall Description (6 points)
  • Collaboration/Coordination (18 points)
  • Education, Outreach and Communication (6 points)
  • Direct Engagement (6 points)
  • Questionnaire Assistance (6 points)
Data Collection, Evaluation and Reporting 8
CSA Budget Not scored
Total 100

Please visit for more information about the Illinois 2020 Census Office and about the work to ensure a fair and accurate count in Illinois. For further information, contact Kia Coleman, Assistant Secretary for Programs at the IDHS at