Andrea Zopp is the President and CEO of World Business Chicago, where she leads the organization’s mission of inclusive economic growth, supporting businesses, and promoting Chicago as a leading global city. Most recently, she served as Deputy Mayor, Chief Neighborhood Development Officer for the City of Chicago. Andrea has dedicated her career to being a force of change. She is now leading the charge to make us count in the 2020 Census.
Anthony Ellis McGee (AEM): You have an impressive resume and have championed job creation, access to education, corporate responsibility, and promote economic development in underserved communities. How have these roles prepared you for the massive undertaking of the 2020 Census?
Andrea Zopp (AZ): My role with the Census is: I co-chair the complete count committee, and we encourage and work in organizing the city of Chicago’s efforts. There are lots of people and organizations that are doing the hard work in reaching out and connecting with people. My primary role is to help them get organized and to be a public advocate for talking about why the Census is so important.
AEM: How has the methods of educating citizens and collecting Census data changed with the onslaught of COVID-19?
AZ: The message is the same, but the methodology is different. We engage with a number of community organizations such as the Urban League and many other groups across the city. Initially, these organizations were going to go door-to-door and talk to people, communicate with them, and host meetings. We’ve had to shift to calling people and hosting virtual events, communicating via social media, and doing more advertising on radio and television. The piece we had to take away was the face-to-face interaction. More emphasis has been placed on reaching out to people via telephone and electronically.
AEM: Unfortunately, many minority groups distrust the government and are reluctant to share personal data for fear of negative repercussions. What information can be given to ease the anxiety of people concerned with privacy issues?
AZ: African-Americans and other minority groups do have a distrust for government, and there are reasons for that distrust. But here is the thing people need to remember: By law, information from the Census can only be used for the Census to determine the count itself. The information given does not go to any other government organization, and any other government organization cannot use it. It’s a crime for any other entity to use data collected in the Census. Furthermore, a person does not have to be a citizen to be counted. Everyone living in the home should be counted, including children and even people who are not related. Each person matters.
AEM: For those still hesitant about completing the Census questionnaire, how does it translate into tangible services for those representing different communities and demographics?
AZ: The Census governs the distribution of 635 billion dollars worth of federal resources every year. The funds go to states and cities, which include funding for schools, roads, housing, and job training programs. How those resources are distributed to each state is governed by the Census. It amounts to approximately $1400 per person per year. When you add that all up, you’re talking about hundreds of thousands of people; that can be a significant loss of money if we’re not counted. If we don’t have the money, we cannot make the investments in communities because the money is limited. Black people must get their fair share of federal resources to support the things we need in the Black community. We pay taxes, and we want to make sure we get a fair share of those tax dollars back into our community.
AEM: In Chicago, African-Americans comprise more than 70% of COVID-19 deaths, and the numbers are disproportionately high nationwide, will completing the Census provide African-Americans with better equity in regards to healthcare over the next ten years?
AZ: The Census determines how the resource pie is cut at the federal level. If we’re not counted, Black people will not get the same level of resources. Therefore, less money can be given to support healthcare initiatives that address equity.
AEM: Has COVID-19 impacted the Self Response Rate of the 2020 Census?
AZ: The response so far has been lower than what we would like. The last Census of 2010, we were at about 66% of the people in our city that should’ve been counted were counted; this was based on response rate. Right now, the United States response rate is about 48%, with Illinois at 52% and Chicago at 41%.
AEM: One final question: As we witness people around the country losing their lives, jobs, and even social interaction with family and friends because of COVID-19, what do you say to those who feel as if it’s bad timing for the government to emphasize completing the Census when everyone is trying to adjust to a new normal?
AZ: There’s no question that we wish these two things, filling out of the Census, and the pandemic didn’t come at the same time, but they have. The Constitution requires us to count everyone in the United States every ten years. There are a lot of issues about Black and Brown businesses in the neighborhoods having a hard time getting access to the federal Small Business Administration dollars. Completing the Census is critically important because it will drive the resources available to us when we come out of the Coronavirus. We will still need federal dollars to be invested in schools on the South Side and West Side. We want federal dollars to support job training programs for our Black and Brown communities.
Visit my2020census.gov. To complete the 2020 Census form online or call 844-330-2020 to complete the questionnaire over the phone.
If we don’t count, we won’t count!