Be counted in the New Year

Thursday, December 31, 2009

The 2010 Census will do more than provide the Census Bureau with demographic information about individual states and counties in our country. Census information is also used to determine the number of congressional seats awarded and the amount of federal funding available to each state. Missouri's 2010 Census Count is especially important. Depending on the response generated through the Census Count, Missouri stands to either lose one or retain one congressional seat next year.

Last week, the U.S. Census Bureau released population figures that showed Missouri is close to the number that could allow the state to keep nine congressional seats instead of dropping to eight. Although the numbers have swung in our state's favor, population estimates indicate that Missouri could be within 5,000 individuals of retaining the congressional seat.

A National Complete Count Committee has been established to circulate information to businesses, community groups, churches and other organizations throughout each state. Counties within each state have established Complete Count Committees, which are responsible for educating individuals in their specific area.

Over the next few months, Barry Countians will receive information about the 2010 Census Count through the local Complete Count Committee. Members plan to distribute information by sending pamphlets and flyers home with area students. Parents are encouraged to read the information and familiarize themselves with the 2010 Census Count process. The flyers and pamphlets should be shared with friends, family members and neighbors who do not have school-age children. Information will also be distributed at community events, high school sports activities and through local media outlets.

In March of 2010, the Census Bureau will begin mailing Census Count forms to residents across the country. Barry Countians are encouraged to complete and return the forms as soon as possible. The Barry County Complete Count Committee suggests residents return their forms on or before April 15, which is tax day. Census Bureau employees will visit residents who do not return their forms by the end of April.

The local committee is working to establish questionnaire assistance centers, which will be available to residents who need assistance completing their Census forms. Bi-lingual Census employees will be available to provide assistance to Hispanic residents at many of the local assistance centers.

The 2010 Census questionnaire will contain 10 questions and should take only around 10 minutes to complete. Households will be asked to provide the following information: whether a housing unit is rented or owned; the address of the residence; and the names, genders, ages and races of individuals living in the household.

By law, the Census Bureau cannot share an individual's responses with anyone. Information will not be released to federal agencies or law enforcement entities. Data collected through the Census Count cannot be accessed by the President of the United States, the U.S. Supreme Court, the Internal Revenue Service, U. S. Citizenship and Immigration Services or welfare agencies.

In addition to determining the number of seats each state has in the U.S. House of Representatives, the data will also help our state receive its share of more than $400 billion in federal funding that is allocated to communities across the country each year. These funds could benefit our local area by bringing law enforcement, drug abuse prevention, emergency services and other federal grants to our community in the future.

Next year, when 2010 Census Count questionnaires begin arriving in local mailboxes, take a few minutes to complete the form and be counted. Completing and returning the questionnaire will be safe and easy, and by completing the form, local residents can help ensure Missouri and Barry County retain a strong voice in the federal government.

Lindsay Reed