August 21, 2020 Minutes

Illinois 2020 Census Advisory Panel
August 21, 2020


Phone Number: 312-535-8110 Access Code: 802-409-251#

WebEx Link:


Panel Members on WebEx: State Representative Carol Ammons, Deborah Bennett, former Representative Mike Fortner, State Representative Elizabeth (Lisa) Hernandez, State Representative Theresa Mah, State Senator Dan McConchie, Maria Pesqueira, State Representative Andre Thapedi, State Senator Jil Tracy.

Panel Members Absent: State Senator Kimberly Lightford, State Senator Andy Manar, State Senator Iris Martinez, State Representative Ryan Spain.

Staff on WebEx: IDHS Secretary Grace Hou; Lizzy Whitehorn, First Assistant Deputy Governor; Oswaldo Alvarez, IDHS; Marishonta Wilkerson, IDHS; and Patricia Brown, IDHS.

Welcome and Introductions

First Deputy Governor Lizzy Whitehorn called the meeting to order at 9:34 am and welcomed everyone to the August meeting. Ms. Whitehorn reminded participants that the U.S. Census Bureau changed the Census count deadline from October 31st to September 30th.

Public Participation

IDHS Deputy General Counsel Patricia Brown announced that there were no submissions for public participation ahead of the meeting.

Patricia Brown called the roll. Lacking a quorum, the Panel tabled approval of the July minutes until a quorum was present.

U.S. Census Bureau (USCB)

Ms. Dionne Roberts-Emegha from the U.S. Census Bureau shared that Illinois is in the top ten states for response rates. Illinois is currently seventh in the nation compared to other states and the response rate is trending upwards every day. She shared that the public can follow the updated self response tally on the U.S. Census Bureau's website.

Illinois current has a 69% response rate and a 12% collection rate for non-response households. To boost participation, the USCB is partnering with the City of Chicago on local events like block parties.

Senator McConchie asked questions related to how people are being counted, who are snowbirds, who moved due to COVID-19, or who are students. The USCB stated that snowbirds are counted as to where they were living on April 1st. For people who have moved and students, they should be counted where they lived and slept for the majority of the 6 months prior to April 1, 2020.

State Representative Thapedi joined the meeting during the USCB Update.

Approval of July 2020 Minutes

Patricia Brown announced that the panel had achieved a quorum and could consider approval of the meeting minutes. Deborah Bennet moved to approve the July 2020 meeting minutes and Former State Representative Mike Fortner seconded. The July 2020 minutes were approved unanimously by roll call vote.

2020 Census Grant Program Update

Oswaldo Alvarez shared that Illinois is currently seventh in the nation for response rates at 69% of Illinoisans responding. Also, Illinois' response rate growth has increased. In 2010, Illinois reached a 70.5% response rate. Monroe County is a top county, with an 81.2% response rate. All collar counties are over a 70% response rate. However, in large municipalities in collar counties (such as Waukegan, Elgin, Aurora, and Joliet), there is still a need to increase the count.

Illinois counties with the lowest response rate include Hardin and Calhoun, which have below a 40% response rate. Chicago is leading all cities with over 2 million people at a 54.8% response rate. Many neighborhoods across Chicago, such as Little Village, North Lawndale, New City/Back of the Yards, Englewood, West Englewood, Pilsen, Austin, Humboldt Park, Belmont-Cragin, and Hermosa, continue to see low response rates.

On July 21, 2020, a memorandum that would exclude immigrants from being counted on the Census was issued by the President. On August 3rd, the USCB announced the deadline for completing the Census count was changing from October 31st to September 30th. Illinois joined the State of New York in a lawsuit challenging the change, as it would inhibit a complete and accurate count. The House passed the HEROES Act that contained an extension for the Census, but when the Senate unveiled their COVID relief bill (HEALS Act) in July, it did not include this provision. Therefore, the State's Census Office is continuing its efforts, assuming a September 30th deadline, until we are informed otherwise.

The Census Office executed FY21 grant agreements, however they will need to be amended based on the USCB's deadline change. One grant agreement was not renewed with UIC Jane Addams due to capacity issues. The Census Office reallocated those resources to YWCA to continue working with the opportunity youth population. The amendment process should be completed within the first week of September. Under the current deadline, Regional Intermediaries (RIs) and Subrecipients will end outreach work on September 30th, when the portal closes. They will be allowed to close out their grants and finalize reporting by November 30th. The Census Office confirmed that grantees will be able to perform their work in the face of these recent challenges and several RIs submitted advance payment requests.

State Representative Carol Ammons joined the meeting during the Program Update and asked about challenges faced by RIs and how they were able to adapt because of COVID-19. Marishonta Wilkerson responded that most RIs were able to pivot, but for some RIs this was more difficult, because they were service-based organizations.

Ms. Wilkerson shared that approximately $4.5 million of the $29 million allocated for Census in FY20 was unspent by RIs and sister agencies. This was largely due to due to COVID-19 and grantees not being able to do as many door-to-door and in-person events during shelter in place restrictions. We anticipate that most, if not all, of the $14.5 million allocated in FY21 for Census work will be spent.

The Census Office is currently working with our RIs for an additional push of events in partnership with the minority caucuses to increase participation in areas with the lowest response rates. During the month of August, the following events are scheduled: State Agency Census Challenge, Census at Work Day, Chicago We Care Contest, and continued coordination with the City of Chicago, Cook County, and Forefront for coordinated statewide activities and social media storms.

Ms. Wilkerson thanked the panel members for being Census Ambassadors and shared that all legislative members should have received Census masks at their district offices.

Timeline Review

The Census Office reminded the panel that the US Census Bureau portal will be closing on September 30, 2020. Non-Response Follow-Up commenced August 9th, 2020, but a soft launch began the week of July 27th.

The Census Office reminded the panel that they are scheduled to meet through December, on the third Friday of the month.

The meeting adjourned at 10:20 am.