News Local/State

Pritzker Pushes Participation In 2020 Census

Illinois Governor JB Pritzker

Illinois Governor JB Pritzker, in an undated photo. Brian Mackey/NPRIllinois

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule soon on whether the Trump administration can add a citizenship question to the 2020 census. In Illinois, Governor J.B. Pritzker is moving ahead with plans to make sure everyone in the state is counted.

Pritzker created a new, 12-member Census Advisory Panel to determine how to spend $29 million to encourage people to participate in the census. The goal is to reach "hard-to-count" populations and residents who might be reluctant to answer questions about their family, job, and background. 

While signing an executive order Thursday laying out plans, Pritzker criticized former Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration for being slow to support census activities. He was also critical of President Donald Trump.

“We certainly can’t count on the federal government to be a good partner. The Trump administration is doing everything in its power to ensure an undercount,” he said. “It’s a multi-pronged approach to slash funding and force communities into the shadows.”

Anita Banerji is director of the Democracy Initiative at Forefront, a nonprofit group that bolsters other nonprofits. She said the state money could help Illinois avoid losing as many as two congressional seats.

“The census count is a civil right; it’s a human right,” she said. “Everyone matters, everyone counts.”

The Department of Human Services will manage the grant program. NPR Illinois (Springfield public radio station WUIS) talked with Deputy Gov. Sol Flores last week about how state government plans to use the money. The administration hopes to start giving out grants to local governments and other community groups by the fall.