Census 2010 - the count begins

Wanda English Burnett, Editor

Although the actual date for the next census is April 2010, the process has begun. The census is a count of everyone living in the United States, done every ten years, and is required by law.

Tamie Tatum, Census Partnership Specialist, was in the area last week getting town council presidents to sign an agreement (Indiana Partnership Agreement). This agreement means the town government entities will work in cooperation with the census representatives to make sure everyone in their area is counted.

It is imperative to the quality of life for residents to make sure they are counted. Tatum explained that every person translates into $4,000 per year in federal funds. This means until the next census, which takes place every ten years, towns stand to gain or lose $40,000 for each person. That is not an exact dollar figure the town physically receives, but is seen in various agencies ranging from care for the elderly to roads and bridges.

Federal funds for a variety of agencies are based on data collected by the census. This affects services for the elderly, building new roads and bridges, schools, dollars for highway safety and public transportation systems, location of police and fire departments, or perhaps where to locate job training centers.

The data collected also impacts how congressional seats are distributed to states, and what community services the federal government will provide. These could include senior lunch programs and child care centers.

The numbers also help businesses to identify where to locate factories, shopping centers, banks, offices and more. Much hinges on an accurate census count.

In the past many people received a short form, but others would get a long one, taking a lot of time and asking questions many people felt to be too personal. This year the short form only is being used. This asks: name, sex, age, date of birth, race, ethnicity, relationship, and housing tenure. It takes just a few minutes to complete.

Information collected is protected. According to Tatum, it is highly confidential. Under Title 13, which is an airtight law, census data are strictly prohibited from being shared with any other federal, state, or local agency or any foreign government.

A court of law cannot subpoena this information and it is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act or the Patriot Act. The Internal Revenue Service, Department of Homeland Security, Federal Bureau of Investigation, police, military, and welfare agencies cannot tap into data collected for the census.

The census dates back to 1790 when the first count was carried out by US Marshals on horseback. Then, 3.9 million people were counted. The latest count in 2000, saw more than 281 million people counted.

Just as spring brings the planting season, census partners are hoping to plant the idea of the importance of being counted in rural areas across the nation. “It’s important for every single person to be counted,” urged Tatum.

Census representatives have already been going door-to-door getting preliminary information in some areas. There will be more. This process also creates several temporary jobs. In 2000, 860,000 temporary workers were hired.

If you’re interested in becoming part of this process as a paid worker, you can contact www.census.gov/2010census jobs or call 1-866-861-2010.