NORMAL, Ill. (WMBD) — This is the year of the census, and its important everyone, in every city, gets counted. However, that may be tough with the COVID-19 pandemic many students are off campus, out of the city in which they would be counted.
Every 10 years the federal government asks for a head count of each city to determine how much in funding that area should receive. Normal has a population of 52,500, but due to the coronavirus just under half of the residents are not living there right now. So some may wonder, what does that mean for the town?
“I’ve never seen anything like this, in my life,” said CEO of the Bloomington-Normal Economic Development Council. “To where, everyone is basically quarantined and you lost 21,000 of your population overnight, so we have no idea.”
As part of Governor J.B. Pritzker’s orders, everyone in the state of Illinois is to avoid large gatherings, which means lecture halls, dorms and even the quads are vacant.
“Normal is no different than any other university campus,” said Normal Assistant city Manager, Eric Hanson. “Just here in Central Illinois, ISU, Bradley, Wesleyan, University of Illinois Springfield and Champaign-Urbana. Every community that has higher education is going to potentially be impacted.”
Federal and state funds are given to local governments based on a per capita basis. That money is then used for infrastructure, general assistance, and aid to those who need it
“Having an accurate count is important so that we get those dollars that are provided to support those various initiatives,” said Hanson.
Hanson says each person equals about $1,400 to $2,000 per year for Normal’s economy. Noticing that loss of revenue may put many cities in a bind, the federal government is stepping in.
“They’ve extended the time frame into the fall,” he said. “Obviously they are going to have to reevaluate as things become clearer. This is still a very fluid situation, and until then we will continue to get as many people counted as we can including the student.
Hanson says luckily students living in on-campus housing are counted, the trouble is getting those who live off campus into the mix. He also says, its not just the students, in 2010 only 75% of the population was accounted for, so he’s urging everyone to do their part.