State and many municipal officials are doing everything they can to ensure every resident is counted in the upcoming U.S. Census, in part to ensure they get every dollar available.
When Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced $29 million in state funding for the Census push was in the newly-enacted budget that begins next month, he made it clear that the stakes were high for Illinois.
“This is an enormous undertaking that could have dramatic, truly dramatic, implications for our state,” he said.
While understanding how many people the state has in it is of the utmost importance, Quincy Alderman Jeff Bergman, who sits on a Census Complete Count Committee, says the big motivation for Pritzker and others to ensure everyone is counted is “to be honest with you, for any funding that would be coming forward to the City of Quincy because of the population base at the state and federal level,” he said.
States and local government receive federal grants and reimbursements for Medicaid spending and infrastructure needs based on formulas that take population into account. So far, states throughout the country have spent more than $130 million in state funds to ensure they’re maximizing their local population tallies, according to rollcall.com. California has budgeted $100 million for its Census effort.
Cities near the 25,000 person mark, such as Carbondale, have an added incentive to count every resident. If the Census comes back with the college town below that population threshold, the city could lose broad taxing and borrowing abilities, referred to in Illinois law as home-rule status.
“If you have to play by a totally different set of rules and you don’t have some of the ability that you [have] being home-rule as opposed to not being home-rule,” Bergman said. “It really makes things more difficult for everybody involved.”
Illinois received $131 billion in federal spending in 2017, but because the average household is wealthier, the state’s net position was negative $364 per person, according to a recent report from the Rockefeller Institute.