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Census is important for our community

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Earlier this month, households across Barry County, Missouri and the country received the 2010 Census form. Some forms were delivered by mail and others were hand delivered by census workers. The census packet contained detailed information regarding how to complete the form.

The U.S. Census Bureau has stated that it will take individuals around 10 minutes to complete the 2010 Census form. I was able to read all of the instructions and enclosed information and complete the questionnaire within the 10-minute estimated time limit. Completing the 2010 Census is quick and easy. Many of our readers have probably already completed the form and dropped it in the mail.

If you have not completed the form yet, I would strongly encourage you to do so today. Remitting the form before mid-April will help our country save valuable dollars. Households that do not return a completed form to the U.S. Census Bureau will receive a visit from a census worker in late April or early May. Valuable dollars will be spent paying census workers to follow-up with households that do not return their census forms in a timely manner.

Completing the census form will also help ensure that our state and local area are represented fairly in the federal government. Census results will be used to decide the number of representatives each state has in the U.S. Congress. This is especially important for Missouri. According to population figures released by the U.S. Census Bureau, Missouri stands to either lose one or retain one congressional seat next year. That decision hinges on the responses generated by the 2010 Census.

In addition to determining the number of seats each state has in Congress, census data will help our state receive its share of more than $400 billion in federal funding that is allocated to communities across the country each year. At a time when our state is facing severe budget cuts and possible discontinuation of some very important services and programs, receiving our portion of federal dollars is more important than ever. The funds could benefit our local area by bringing law enforcement, drug abuse prevention, emergency services and other federal grants to our community.

Census form answers are protected by law. Each census worker must take an oath of confidentiality and is subject to jail time and fines if they disclose any information that could identify an individual or household. Answers are only used for statistical purposes. Information provided on census forms cannot be obtained by law enforcement or tax collection agencies. Answers cannot be used in court or obtained with a Freedom of Information Act request.

Over the last few years, most of us have learned how to save money in our household budgets, and none of us are excited about our country's rising deficit. Completing the census form is one safe, simple way we can all work together to save our country money and ensure valuable dollars are allocated for programs and projects that are important to our state and community.

Lindsay Reed