'Going To Do The Best We Can': Cook County Adjusts Outreach Strategy For US Census Due To COVID-19

Toni Precwinkle
Photo credit Toni Preckwinkle (WBBM Newsradio)
By WBBM Newsradio 780 AM & 105.9 FM

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Just when getting a complete Census count is getting harder, officials said Cook County is finding itself with a tightening budget.

The Cook County Board allotted $2 million to ensure a full US Census count, to help the area get all the federal funds it’s due. But, the COVID-19 pandemic has prevented a lot of face to face contact.

Cristina Vera, with the William Everett group, managing the outreach, said changes were made.

"We have pivoted our strategy from community events to a strengthened approach on social media and targeted digital efforts," she said.

Cook County Commissioner Alma Anaya, Vice Chair of the Complete Count Commission, said officials have had to adjust their outreach.

"There is something that is just not working in any of the low response rates. We are trying to figure out how to shift the outreach efforts so that it becomes more impactful. Each community is very different. Each neighborhood is very different, so the importance is to continue to keep track of those and continue to shift," she said.

WBBM Newsradio asked County Board President Toni Preckwinkle if there’s enough money for the longer harder effort.  She points out that the $2 million to get more people to answer the census is there, but she can't say if that will be enough. The coronavirus has them facing big budget gaps.

"Well the truth is, it's hard to say. The question is, is the money enough? We are going to do the best we can with the resources we have. And frankly, as you may have heard last week, we are looking at a situation where we have a $280 million gap to close," Preckwinkle said. "The short story is we don't have any more resources other than the ones we already devoted to this, and we are going to try to do the best we can to use that money effectively."

The Census has hotlines in 14 languages:
  • English: 844-330-2020
  • Spanish: 844-468-2020
  • Chinese (Mandarin): 844-391-2020
  • Chinese (Cantonese): 844-398-2020
  • Vietnamese: 844-461-2020
  • Korean: 844-392-2020
  • Russian: 844-417-2020
  • Arabic: 844-416-2020
  • Tagalog: 844-478-2020
  • Polish: 844-479-2020
  • French: 844-494-2020
  • Haitian Creole: 844-477-2020
  • Portuguese: 844-474-2020
  • Japanese: 844-460-2020
  • English (for Puerto Rico residents): 844-418-2020
  • Spanish (for Puerto Rico residents): 844-426-2020
  • TDD (Telephone Display Device): 844-467-2020

Click here for more information on the U.S. Census and how to submit information.