Census forms start to arrive in area homes

Published 6:15 pm Monday, March 15, 2010

It’s time to stand up and be counted.

Hand deliveries of the 2010 U.S. Census have begun in earnest inthe rural areas of Mississippi, with more forms scheduled to beginarriving in mailboxes in metropolitan areas next week. Thedicentennial headcount will be used to reconfigure congressionaldistricts and will determine the allocation of federal funds forthe next decade.

It should definitely not be ignored, said Kat Smith, mediaspecialist with U.S. Census Bureau’s Dallas Regional Office.

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“It’s our civic duty, just like you have to do jury duty,” shesaid. “This is a historical census in that it only has 10questions. It’s 10 questions for the next 10 years of yourlife.”

The results of the 10-year census will have a huge impact on thepolitical makeup of the country, as federal, state and local votingdistricts will all be redrawn based on the population counted afterall the documents are returned. The impact on this area of thecensus was clearly seen in the Magnolia State in 2000, whenMississippi’s slow-growing population resulted in the loss of aseat in the U.S. House of Representatives, dropping the number ofcongressional districts from five to four.

Besides that important aspect, census results will also be used todetermine the allocation of more than $400 billion of federalfunding per year over the next 10 years, affecting appropriationsand grants from state-to-state.

“For everyone who doesn’t fill out their form, that’s money thatwon’t go to hospitals, schools, roads, bridges – everything fundedby the state and city,” Smith said. “When you have potholes andschools that are not up to par, all of that is affected when peopledon’t take this seriously.”

The document headed to doorways and mailboxes across Mississippi isa simple, 10-question form that should be filled and returned assoon as possible, Smith said. The census will be delivered with apostage-paid envelope, so there is no charge to return it.

The questionnaire itself will seek to determine how many peoplelive in a particular residence, any additional people who sometimesstay there, the status of the residence’s ownership, telephonenumber, information on the people living there, sex, age, whetherresident are of Hispanic origin, race and whether or not the headof the household sometimes lives elsewhere.

The information is used by a variety of social researchers toanalyze trends and by the local, state and federal governments toplan programs and services for particular areas and determinevoting districts.

Smith pointed out the census will ask no intrusive questions of anykind.

“Those 10 questions are all we ask,” she said. “We ask no financialinformation, whether or not you pay your taxes or your childsupport is none of our business. We’re just asking for a headcount, that’s all.”

National Census Day is April 1, when the document should bereturned.

Census workers will check up on households that did not return aform in April and July. The U.S. Census Bureau will deliver thefinal census information to the president in December.

Redistricting data based on the census will be distributed nextMarch.

Questions about, or assistance with, the census can be obtained in59 languages by calling the help line at 866-872-6868. This is alsothe number to call in case a census form is lost or destroyed.