The Census is counting on you

Published 3:46 pm Thursday, March 25, 2010

The U.S. Census has been gathering data on citizens since its advent in 1790. Every ten years, America takes on the task of counting its citizens, a job that is more important than some may realize.

Larry Childers works as the director of communications and information for the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs.

Childers said the census gives Americans more than a population estimate.

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“One of the primary purposes of the Census is to apportion the U.S. House of Representatives,” Childers said. “The fixed 435 seats are distributed in accordance with population numbers.”

Local governments benefit from the information as well.

“All levels of government use the Census in planning community services and programs,” Childers said. “Data is frequently used to determine the best places to locate medical and educational facilities and for drawing a wide variety of boundary lines for school districts, city council districts, county commissions districts and many others.”

Also, Childers said, 85 percent of federal grants use population to determine how to distribute funds. Therefore, when one person is overlooked, this could mean a loss of thousands of dollars in funding.

Childers said every household should have a form by the end of March.

“Hand-delivery is still going on in some areas,” Childers said. “If residents have not received a form by Census Day, April 1, they can visit a ‘Be Counted Site’ or ‘Questionnaire Assistance Center.'”

For Greenville residents, this means making a trip to the Greenville YMCA, Butler County Library, Mo Money Taxes, Butler County Administrator’s office of the Beeland Community Center.

If you misplace or somehow destroy the form, a visits to a “Be Counted Site” will insure you are included in the 2010 count.

Filling out the form promptly, Childers said, can save Alabama money.

“After April 1, the Census Bureau will start sending enumerators out to visits residents who have failed to return their forms,” Childers said. “Sending enumerators costs a lot of money, tax payer money.”

The law requires census participation, Childers said. Persons who don’t fill out the form can be fined up to $100. Providing false information is finable up to $500. All information provided is confidential and used for statistical purposes only.

Currently, 20 percent of residents in Butler County have returned their questionnaires. Childers said that workers would continue to try to contact those who have not responded.

“The point is to make sure everyone is counted,” Childers said.