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Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2015

It's Census Time!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The year 2010 means another census for the United States. Some meet the census, which occurs every 10 years, with reproach, but the census is a very important aspect that is able to strengthen the nation's infrastructure and help communities.

The Census Bureau helps allocate about $400 billion in federal funds to communities for hospitals, job training centers, schools, senior centers, bridges, tunnels and other public works projects and emergency services. Results from the census also determine the number of seats a state has in the U.S. House of Representatives. Census data are not only used for governmental purposes but also for educational and scientific purposes, such as research for student or professor papers or projects and for research on legislative issues.

Census form packets will be mailed out to everyone in the U.S. and Puerto Rico between March 1 and April 30. The forms are sent out with a postage-paid envelope so residents don't have to spend out-of-pocket money to send the forms back. If the form is not mailed back, then people not mailing back the form may receive a knock at their door from a census taker. This person will ask the questions that are on the form. Residents will be alerted by the Census Bureau before a census taker comes to their household.

According to the 2010 Census Web site, http://2010.census.gov, "Any request for census information from the Census Bureau will be clearly identified as coming from the U.S. Census Bureau and as official business of the United States. It is a federal offense for anyone to pretend they represent the Census Bureau. Before your household receives a mailed form, a phone call or a visit from the Census Bureau, you will be given a few days notice with a letter from the Census Bureau Director."

The forms for this census have 10 questions. The questions on the form include listing the number of people living at the same address as of April 1, 2010. It also asks for information such as name, sex, age, birthday, Hispanic origin, race, household relationship and if you own or rent. The census doesn't ask about the legal U.S. citizenship of a resident or for Social Security numbers. There are some conservative groups that are concerned about illegal immigrants being counted, but the census has acted in a nondiscriminate manner since the first census in 1790 when the federal government wanted to know exactly how many people resided within U.S. borders.

Since much of the U.S. is English speaking, most forms will be in English. However, in areas where there is a high population of those who speak Spanish a bilingual, English and Spanish, form will be sent.

Today, with all the scams and people out to steal others' identities, it's easy to understand why some would be leery to fill or give out personal information. However, Title 13 of the U.S. Code protects residents' confidentiality. Violating this law is punishable by up to a $250,000 fine or up to 5 years jail time for any census worker. Other federal laws including the Confidential Statistical Efficiency Act and the Privacy Act reinforces this code. Census employees also have to take an oath of nondisclosure and are sworn for life. They cannot disclose personal information about respondents to the census to anyone including the IRS (Internal Revenue Service), FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation), CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) or any other government agency. The census process is closely monitored by Congress, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), the Office of the Inspector General of the U.S., Department of Commerce and others, and the Census Bureau reports directly to the Secretary of Commerce.

Along with other personal information, census workers used GPS (global positioning system) to locate addresses. The Census Bureau canvases addresses to help the bureau locate addresses and to update their address list and maps. This information is kept confidential.

If a census taker does happen to come to the door, some things to know are to look for the census taker's identification. Census takers will never ask for any information to be submitted online. All census workers have an FBI name background check and are fingerprinted. Those who are not certain whether or not the person at the door is a census taker can call the Regional Census Center in Kansas City, Mo., at 1-816-994-2000 (the center is the same for residents in both Missouri and Arkansas) to confirm the person is actually a census taker.

Those who refuse to respond to the census can be fined up to $100, and those who knowingly provide false information on the census can be fined up to $500. If a mistake is made on the form, don't worry, a line can be drawn through the mistake and the correct information can be filled in.

For more information about the census go online to http://2010.census.gov or www.census.gov.

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