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Despite COVID-19 challenges, most DeKalb County communities saw higher 2020 census response rates

DeKalb County census officials reported better response rates for the county’s 2020 count than from a decade ago, despite the COVID-19 pandemic presenting some challenges, especially in counting college student population.

Jolene Willis, economic development coordinator for DeKalb County, said there were only two communities out of the 14 within the county that didn’t meet or exceed their 2010 response rates.

“Which, we felt, was pretty remarkable in light of everything going on,” Willis said.

According to DeKalb County data as of Oct. 16, Cortland had an 83.5% census response rate for 2020 and 73.7% for 2010; DeKalb had a 68.4% rate for 2020 and 67.6 for 2010; Genoa had a 79.9% rate for 2020 and 73.5% for 2010; Hinckley had a 78.6% rate for 2020 and 76.3% 2010; Kingston had a 77.7% rate for 2020 and 76.4% for 2010; Kirkland had a 75.6% rate for 2020 and 69.1% for 2010; Maple Park had a 79% rate for 2020 and 72.1% for 2010; Sandwich had a 80% rate for 2020 and 76.7% for 2010; Shabbona had a 76.5% rate for 2020 and 75.9% for 2010; Somonauk had a 78.3% rate for 2020 and 68.2% for 2010; Sycamore had an 82% rate for 2020 and 77.8% for 2010; and Waterman had a 77.1% rate for 2020 and 75.1% for 2010.

Lee, which had a 65.3% response rate for 2020 and 66.2% for 2010, was one of two communities that did not meet or exceed its previous census response rates, according to county data. Malta was the second, with a 69.3% rate for 2020 and a 71.6% rate for 2010.

Overall, Willis said, DeKalb County had a better total response rate this time around than it had in 2010. She said the county’s total response rate for the 2020 census was 74.9%, as opposed to 71.7% for the 2010 census.

“All we can do is hope to improve each time,” Willis said.

DeKalb Mayor Jerry Smith said DeKalb, like a lot of college towns, has a larger transient population in its college students that get bounced around. He said getting that university student population counted was a challenge after the COVID-19 related closures.

“A lot of students who would have been counted in the DeKalb census [count] were not counted,” Smith said.

Smith said the city tried to see if they could do a virtual count for university students, but the city was unsuccessful in doing so.

“From the get go, we realized we were going to lose a count right there,” Smith said.

Smith said that could be a problem when it comes to federal funding for the city. He said every person counted or not counted translates to about $1,500.

“Take that, times the number of people, times ten years – it can result in a sizable amount of money,” Smith said.

Jason Blumenthal, former management analyst for the city of DeKalb, said in October that potentially losing out on uncounted college students could mean less motor fuel tax revenue or less school funding within the city. Overall, he said, the county ended up getting more responses this time around and the online self-response option helped in light of the pandemic especially.

“This is a big deal,” Blumenthal said. “This is money and power, and we want to have our voices heard … and we want to have appropriate funding for … the city of DeKalb.”

Willis said census officials always want more time, better conditions – even when a global pandemic isn’t happening. She said the county just and she said she wanted to continue to emphasize the importance of the census for local communities.

“When people want to see new social service programs or improved infrastructure, roads,” Willis said. “That’s why this count is so important, to help DeKalb County get as much funding as they can through the federal census as possible.”

Source: The Daily Chronicle

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