Nearly 200 civic leaders, clergy and community residents came out for a forum Monday evening to hear about the importance of being counted in the 2010 Census.
With the economy in tatters, participants at the forum also wanted to know about census jobs that will be available as the country rolls out the massive effort to count everyone who lives in the United States.
Stan Moore, Chicago regional director of the U.S. Census Bureau, said four census offices have already been opened in Chicago, and 27 more will follow by August 2009 across the region.
Moore also said that more than 70,000 applications for employment had already been filed. Still, he encouraged applicants not to give up.
"The bureau does not hire on test results alone," he said. "Now we hire residents within each community because it is a more effective way to receive an accurate count of the people who live in these communities."
The census is conducted every 10 years and impacts everything from the distribution of Congressional seats to how much money communities get for schools and other services. Hundreds to millions in federal dollars are disbursed to local and state governments.
Monday night’s forum at the Illinois Institute of Technology was organized by Yvette Moyo, co-founder, and Rael Jackson, Vice President and Brand Manager of Real Men Cook.
"Being a staple in Chicago's African American community for the past 20 years, we felt it was our duty to raise awareness about this issue," Jackson said.
Panel member Donna Smith-Bellinger, Chicago Chapter President of the National Alliance of Market Developers, told the audience, "We must use the same energy to educate our community about the census as we did to get President Obama elected."
Rev. Al Sampson of Fernwood United Methodist Church, on Chicago's South Side, voiced concern about how homeowners who were in foreclosure would be counted by the census.
"We have several new programs that will be implemented to assure that everyone is counted," Moore replied. He urged Sampson and other community leaders to become involved in the Complete Count Committee Program, a volunteer program that uses a team of community leaders to help ensure that all residents are counted. Moore also said, "Many citizens are afraid of losing their privacy if they participate in the census. However, the census information is totally private and not accessible to anyone for a period of 70 years."
Forum participant Sandra Davis, 26, of the Austin neighborhood, expressed both enthusiasm and apprehension.
"I'm very excited to learn how the money is distributed simply by getting census numbers, yet frightened, because if we don't participate we will lose the money we need to improve our neighborhoods".